A brief review for a brief show. It’s less clear-cut than ever exactly what saying ‘Humbug!’ to Christmas precisely means these days. Is, for instance, a retort of that nature against the relentless commercialism of what has gradually become an entire season so objectionable? Just as well, then, that A Christmas Carol – As Told By Jacob Marley (Deceased), despite a slightly cumbersome title for a stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens story, makes clear, as does the original novella, that the show is talking specifically about Christmas Day itself and a reasonable request from an employee to not be in the office on that one day, especially as other businesses will also be closed.
As this is a production that likes to tell it as it is, I feel obliged to point out at the earliest opportunity that this is a show to be avoided if you do not want every line to be acted out. With virtually no set, Jacob Marley (James Hyland) shifts, turns, jumps, swaggers around the stage – whatever is appropriate, to continually set the scene. The action and physicality is relentless. Every door and window that is opened or closed is done so by deed as well as by word, and he enters and leaves the stage very much “a chained and tormented ghost”, as Dickens put it.
Irrespective of one’s level of familiarity with the storyline – none is required to follow the plot as revealed in this show – this is highly compelling and riveting theatre. The pacing is excellent, steady and assured. Stamping its own authority on such a well-known story, a large number of characters are voiced, and acted, convincingly – and seemingly effortlessly. It is no mean feat to go from ‘being’ Bob Cratchit to Scrooge to Tiny Tim. A subtle breaching of the fourth wall, one of those that doesn’t actually require any audience participation (if, like me, you can’t stand audience participation in anything other than at a panto or a post-Curtain Call encore at a big musical, please be reassured), gives an added layer of engagement to this family-friendly play.
A solid and faithful rendering of a famous story, retaining a freshness and vibrancy from start to finish. Perhaps only those wanting a radical reinterpretation will come away disappointed. As far as I can recall, there wasn’t a single change in lighting throughout, and even the sound effects were minimal. This is good old-fashioned storytelling at its best. The ending proved incredibly haunting, and there were echoes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the father ghost figure implores his son to remember him. Here, the line is, “Remember what has passed between us this night!” That won’t be difficult. This is indeed a memorable and astonishing production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
James Hyland reprises one of the greatest one-man shows of all time in his award-winning production of ‘A Christmas Carol – As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)’. Told from the perspective of Scrooge’s deceased business partner, this critically acclaimed adaptation has been hailed as the ‘definitive telling of A Christmas Carol’ (Redditch Standard), and rated as one of ‘the top Christmas shows in London, Edinburgh and around the UK’ (High 50 Culture). Officially recognised by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this ‘forcefully compelling masterpiece’ (Manx Independent) delivers thrills, chills and excitement aplenty for all ages.
Jacob Marley is dead and condemned to an eternity of carrying a heavy chain, forged in life; a life to which he can no longer return except to recount the tale of his miserly business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, and the path that lead to his redemption. Through Marley’s words, we learn how three magical spirits opened Scrooge’s eyes and made him realise the true value of love and forgiveness.
NOV 26 2016 7.45pm
LONDON – NEW WIMBLEDON STUDIO
93 The Broadway, SW19 1QG
DEC 16 2016 8pm
CANTERBURY – MARLOWE STUDIO
Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2AS