(Role: Ghost of Christmas Present/Wilkins)
'A Christmas Carol' at the Belgrade, Coventry.
"Well, it's seasonal...." a colleague said on learning of one's visit to A Christmas Carol at the Belgrade, Coventry. So it is - and very rightly and properly. Eva Holterman's production begins and ends with carols and snowflakes bringing tidings of comfort and joy.
It is, of necessity, a much truncated version of the Dickens classic, adapted for the stage by John Maxwell; indeed, it plays for only a little more than two hours, with two generous intervals added. But for a predominantly youthful audience, this is perhaps no great disadvantage.
Certainly the cries of delight and astonishment, interspersed with laughter, which greeted the company last night must have been welcome evidence of audience participation. Visually, it is an enchanting production: Brian Currah's permanent set allows a fine flexibility of movement and lighting, against a seasonal background of snow-topped houses and a frosty sky, and with a splendid front curtain.
The story of Scrooge's conversion to the meaning and spirit of Christmas is, like all the best stories, well-known and ever-loved: even if, like the writer, one is no Dickensian, it must be part of the Christmas heritage. In this production, let it be recorded, there is even a Tiny Tim whose "God bless us, every one," is at least neither mawkish nor maudlin.
Malcolm Rogers plays the older, Richard Martin the younger, Scrooge: each, in his way, builds a credible character. What is more, each helps to explain the other; we can see the single-mindedness of Mr. Rogers in the young enthusiasm of Mr. Martin, though one might have wished, especially in the first act, that Mr. Rogers, already encumbered by hair and beard worthy of Lear, would not play quite so resolutely for laughs like a Demon King.
Patrick O' Connell's Bob Cratchit is a fine and well-controlled performance; Patsy Byrne, his wife, is reliable as ever, and, selecting unfairly from a large cast, one would mention also the firmly established Mrs Fezziwig of Rhoda Lewis, the Kate of Cherry Morris and the superbly oily Joe and Mrs. Dilber of Charles Kay and Barbara Atkinson. Here is an admirable brief chronicle of the time.
The Birmingham Post, 9.12.58.
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