Review – A Christmas Carol – Guildford Shakespeare and Jermyn Street Theatre

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It’s been a right old year, hasn’t it? I’ve been wanting to have some Christmas cheer more than ever, and seeing “A Christmas Carol” live, on stage, has been a Christmas tradition for me for well over 20 years (remember “A Tap Dance Christmas Carol” or “The Black Light Christmas Carol?” – oh, it’s just me, then). And when suddenly the government closed all the theaters down and every performance that could needed to move online …. well, the <a href=”https://www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/a-christmas-carol/”>Guildford Shakespeare Company</a> did a great job with their <a href=”https://www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/the-wind-in-the-willows-2015/”><I>Wind in the Willows</I></a> this summer, a play that gave me real hope for the format of semi-interactive Zoom theater, so when I heard they’d teamed up with Jermyn Street Theater to do A Christmas Carol – and with Brian Blessed! – I was determined to see it. A live streamed Christmas Carol – how perfect for Christmas 2020!

A brief note on technology: if you choose to see this, it’s best you are ready with Zoom preinstalled on your computer, and for heaven’s sake do NOT get on the microphone to ask people for help getting your tech issues sorted out as everyone will be able to hear it! The performance I watched suffered from having an audience member keep turning their microphone on after they were muted, and I didn’t want to hear their voices over my computer speakers any more than I would have wanted to listen to someone talk about a gall bladder operation while I was watching a show. The link and password will show up about 8 hours before the show, so you should have what you need to check that your technology is working long before the curtain rises – and we were given an extra five minutes or so to sort things out after the official start time. Also: this show can be participatory if you want to participate! If you do, leave your computer’s camera on and the cast may call on you at certain points during the show. (I did not as I live in a very small flat but others dressed up for the show and got very much into the spirit.)

The production is fairly close to the original story although with a few 2020 updates. Jim Findley as Scrooge was kitted out with hand san and comments about the “dreaded lurgy” that was going around, which set him up nicely to keep visitors to his office at twice arm’s length. The rest of the cast did quite a bit of multi-roling. I got a lot of pleasure out of Robin Morrisey as the most put upon Bob Cratchitt I’d ever seen – never realized the character had so much potential for comedy!

The special effects were decidedly NOT at cinema quality, but it’s not reasonable to expect this from this medium. Actually just having people interact with each other while they appeared to be in the same room having dinner together was a treat enough and a good reminder of days past and hopefully still to come. The invitations to join the Fezziwigs’ dance party were most welcome and taken up by a few audience members – it’s the kind of thing I always wished would happen at performances of “A Christmas Carol”! – but I must register a complaint about the food the Cratchitt’s had to eat – even if we were just pretending it was stage food, it seemed like about a potato and a chicken leg each and seeing how little they had (and listening to them talk about how it was a magnificent feast) was making me laugh. Please, a few more potatoes!

The big moments for the production were, of course, the scenes with Penelope Keith (Ghost of Christmas Past) and Brian Blessed (Ghost of Christmas Present). Blessed, of course, was born to play this role, as he’s practically the illustration from the Victorian editions of the story – bearded, giant, jolly, and rather fetching wearing a crown of holly. I was sorry that his singalong moment seemed so rushed – it was a good moment and I would have liked to have spent more time there. Keith, meanwhile, had the far less fun role, but she brought to it an ethereal presence well suited to a character that takes Scrooge through all of his regrets.

I’d say this was more of a family production than many darker versions of the Christmas Carol (suits me this year), with a brisk running time of 75 minutes – and attractively priced at £20. It’s selling out quickly, so if you want to get in while you can, pop over to the <a href=”https://www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/a-christmas-carol/”>Guildford Shakespeare Company site</a> and get a ticket bought. UPDATE: Only Wednesday left so chop chop!

Finally: a glass of mulled wine would be perfect with this show, so don’t forget to brew it up before the show begins!

Final performances will be on :

Tues 29 Dec, 7.30pm
Wed 30 Dec, 3pm
Wed 30 Dec, 7.30pm

One Response to “Review – A Christmas Carol – Guildford Shakespeare and Jermyn Street Theatre”

  1. Richard Rennie Says:

    dear tonnvane:
    unfortunate these digital convolutions and distance from seeing folks face to face — yet, i spoke with darron cook’s brother, and i should have let you know sooner. he was one of many i’d wanted to see and visit while “on the road” visiting so many spaces — it would have been great to include other voices than the limitations of “make a wish” redundancies as evidently this species was heading for a precipice vis a vis viral AND sociocultural pandemic. it’s NOT the only thing the AIDS crisis taught me.

    Darron also adored you and enjoyed many times that we shared together — regardless of how you seem to think i feel about you. He passed away over the past 2 years in Seattle AND I just wanted to let you know. I spoke with Christina Conti and Steven/Shelley Henry and tried to reach Tommy Ambrose as I’ve been gardening and doing the duty of keeping off the road — during this pandemic moment. None of the above people seemed to care enough to at least give a sense of fond farewell and any sense of respect for life, friendship, moments in life and current climate considerations. Oh well….choices, choices, choices.

    You may have already heard from other avenues BUT I wanted to let you know — as Darron had fond memories with you and I adored living with him and doing so much more. This skeletal pandemic moment has exemplified the skeletal form of some folks’ management, orchestration and composition style in projects (which have been — for me — so succinctly juvenile, immature, irresponsible and pitiful).

    hope you are well — all things considered.

    peace be with you.

    Peace be with you.

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