City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Review


By Justine Blundell - Posted on 15 December 2010

5
Christmas Carol
Show Details
Company: 
Mike Maran Productions in association with The Nuffield, Southampton
Production: 
Patrick Sandford (director), Alison Stephens (music), John Brown (sound, lighting and technical management)
Performers: 
Mike Maran (narrator) Norman Chalmers (musician)
Running time: 
80mins

Before the performance even began, from simply staring at the set, one sensed that this production was going to be something really special.

Black railings and a twiggy tree cast shadowy silhouettes onto a backdrop that was tinged with the mottled, pinky-purple tones of the sun setting in a night sky; a large black chest, hung with chains, loomed menacingly against the contrasting white-sheeted floor. All so very Dickensian and so immediate in the way it took you a step back in time and right into the heart, the very soul, of this most famous Christmas story. This entire production was starkly beautiful and utterly mesmerising.

With the support of ingenious lighting and a few props, Mike Maran, accompanied by a near-silent Norman Chalmers, blasted the story of Scrooge into life.

Mike Maran is larger than life and has a huge stage presence that is warm and generous and reaches right out to you. Norman Chalmers, who played concertina, thumb piano and whistle, and was used as occasional characters such as Bob Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Present, was barely-there yet fully present, never intruding into the story yet providing everything necessary to help the story live.

With perfect balance these two created a magical, moving atmosphere in which every moment, every gesture was executed with a care that allowed nothing extraneous, nothing superfluous, to interfere with the telling of this moving story of redemption – the two almost danced this perfectly choreographed piece of theatre.

We journeyed, with Maran, through the gamut of human emotions, from extreme highs to the depths of despair. There were moments of sheer exuberant delight: the recreation of how the young Scrooge and his colleagues transformed Fezziwig’s workplace into a ballroom transported us straight into the light and merriment where you could hear the laughter, see the dancing.

Such was the joy of this that you were left almost bereft when transported away to cold, dark, painful memories of sadness and regret, such as when Scrooge’s love, Belle, reluctantly left him to continue his empty pursuit of his new love, money. The first act ended with Scrooge, in utter anguish, extinguishing the light of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

During the second act we are again carried along on an overwhelming flight through the extremes of human feeling. When Scrooge finally wakes on Christmas morning to find it is not too late to save the rest of his life, there is palpable relief in the room that soon turns to joy: in the life that we have; in the richness of the relationships we have formed and are yet to form; and in the knowledge that it’s never too late to change and that although change is difficult and painful - and may even cause others to laugh at us - it shouldn’t be avoided if to lead a good life it is demanded.

I left feeling emotionally exhausted yet uplifted and with a real sense of urgency that life should be grabbed now and rejoiced in before it’s too late. Deeply, deeply moving.

Ran at the Storytelling Centre on 10 and 11 December

The production was dedicated to the memory of Alison Stephens who composed the music. She died of cervical cancer on October 10th 2010. Fund raising is ongoing with the goal of a memorial to Alison at Trinity College in London where she studied and taught. For further information please visit www.alisonstephens.com