A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre brings to life this classic Christmas story, in a very likeable and entertaining production. Narrated and acted entirely by Simon Callow, it is a warm interpretation, delivered as a good story around a fireplace on a snowy evening. There is much to enjoy here, and you leave with a happy glow.
Simon Callow delivers a dynamic performance; we are firmly held in the hands of this flawless professional. As a one-man production, Callow manages to keep us engaged and entertained throughout. Some of the characters could have been delineated more sharply, and perhaps the staging might have helped more in this. Otherwise, we are hooked quickly and remain on the ride for the entire 80 minutes.
Tom Cairns has directed and designed a charming enough production. However, I was hoping for the show to lean in more to either the spooky quality of the story or to further celebrate its magical Christmas quality. It sort of does neither, the set hovering between minimalistic use of chairs and a large rotating screen, that I had thought would do more or add more than it ultimately does. The background imagery is nice enough, but I had anticipated a more magical quality in the stage design, which was not present. The lighting, however, designed by Adam Povey, added depth and much-needed levels to the show.
In all, A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason. Dickens’ comedic words strike out sharply under Callow’s power. This moral tale is given the light and humour it requires. Adding darkness to the ghostly visitations might have made these lighter moments even more effective in contrast, and there is a missed opportunity here to create a more imaginative mode of stage storytelling. However, it is an overall very likeable production, warm-hearted and uplifting, well delivered, and enjoyable for the whole family.
Review by Christina Care
Following sell-out seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2016 and critical and audience acclaim, Simon Callow returns in this much-lauded production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, playing at the Arts Theatre for a strictly limited season from 8 December. Intensely dramatic and profoundly heart-warming, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of the greatest ghost stories ever written. This is storytelling at its very finest.
Using the adaptation Dickens made for his own public performances, Simon Callow and director and designer Tom Cairns have conjured up a moving, funny and fast-paced one-man theatrical spectacular that will leave you with a warm festive glow.
Dickens takes us on a man’s astonishing journey through his past, his present and (terrifyingly) his future, led by his three ghostly guides. Will Ebenezer Scrooge, tight-fisted, cruel and bitter, finally re-join the human race and learn to embrace the true generous and humble spirit of Christmas? From the miser’s dank and creaking house filled with shadows to cosy hearths, from stark graveyards to joyful festivities, this treasured story offers a celebration of goodness, a plea for justice and the promise of redemption.
BOOKING PERIOD: Saturday 8 December 2018 – Saturday 12 January 2019, Previews until 9 December.
PERFORMANCE TIMES: 15.30 Matinees and 19.30 Evenings
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes no interval
Arts Theatre, London