A CHRISTMAS CAROL
European Arts Company at the Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford
“Read by Mr Charles Dickens. The Author”. Well, we can only speculate on what those hugely popular readings were like, and how close Mr John O'Connor comes to the original. Personally I have always imagined a bold, melodramatic rendition, but this is largely a question of personal taste.
A single chair, the famous reading desk, put to many and varied uses, and some vaguely Victorian screens are the simple setting; unlike Dickens, director Peter Craze is able to call on sound, and to a lesser extent lighting, to conjure up Scrooge's world.
There have been cuts [Dickens sometimes took three hours to tell the tale] – the school room and Joe's rag-and-bone shop two of the casualties – but the key scenes are all in place: The Cratchits' festive meal and Fezziwig's dance both excellently brought to life.
An enjoyable reminder of the original behind so many adaptations and parodies. And, which would have delighted the Charitable Gentlemen, a performance that emulated the original in its charitable purpose, in this case raising funds for Dr Barnado's.