REVIEW: A Christmas Carol

Director – Iain Holding Sutton assisted by Corrine Woodgate

Performed at The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford on Wednesday 12  December 2018 at 7.45pm  

This was my first visit to see a production by Chelmsford Theatre Workshop, standing in for District Rep Christine Davidson who was performing in the play.   Firstly, what a delightful theatre space, CTW have clearly worked hard to create this small theatre and we were given a warm welcome.

This play is one of many adaptations of the Charles Dickens novel, originally commissioned by the RSC.  The dialogue was very faithful to the original story and it was beautifully presented.  We were welcomed by a small group of carol singers who entertained us as we waited for the play to start.  Shame that a small group if latecomers did not have the courtesy to enter the theatre quietly, spoiling the atmosphere that the carollers were designed to enhance.  Once they had, finally, settled in their seats the cast were able to continue the performance.

The play uses three narrators; Beverley Benham, Christine Davidson and Claire Woodward.  Three seasoned performers who kept the story flowing well.  The narrator’s role is to be slightly distanced from the action on stage but with just enough involvement to make it seamless.  These three ladies did exactly that, with just the right connection with the play.

Kevin Stemp WAS Scrooge, with a performance that was absolutely what I wanted to see.  Many actors have portrayed the character over the years, but Kevin’s performance was one of the best I have seen.  He has a terrific way of owning the part without detracting from other actors on stage.  This is important in this piece where the other members of the cast are portraying the story and he is ‘just’ the observer.  He was always there but never distracting our attention to the story.

David Hawkes played both Bob Cratchit and Mr Fezziwig, another strong performance of two completely different characters, both a delight to watch.  Rachel Curran played both Mrs Cratchit and Mrs Fezziwig with equal flair.   In fact, this ability for the cast to portray multiple characters and make them all very different is the strength of the company.

I loved the three ghosts, Laura Bradley (Ghost of Christmas Past) Lewis Clarke (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Alexander Bloom (Ghost of Christmas Future) and the remainder of the cast all played their parts well.  I must give a special mention for the children, who were terrific.

The costumes were beautiful, although I wasn’t sure about Jacob Marley’s makeup and, personally, feel that his exit down the aisle of the theatre was too ‘solid’ for a ghost.  However, the size of the stage means that the auditorium must be used for exits and entrances.  I just wasn’t comfortable seeing him so close.

The simple set worked very well, and the props helped to create the right atmosphere.  Lighting was good and having carols interspersed through the play was a nice idea.  Unfortunately, it served to slow the pace down a bit which was a shame.

A lovely taste of Christmas that was not all glitter and glam, serving as a timely reminder that, even today, not everything is right with the world but that there is hope in all of us.

Tessa Davies for Christine Davidson

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