• By Tom King
  • |
  • 8th Dec 2012
  • |
  • ★★★★

There’s a reason Charles Dickens’ stories endures in popularity. Some may point to his vivid characterisation, his ear for dialogue or his particularly satirical British sense of humour. But for me I think it’s simply the conversational way many of his novels are written. David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickelby may be ‘classics’ but they feel modern, probably mainly due to Dicken’s habit of performing public readings of his works and revising them based on audience reactions.

Small wonder then that this solo production of Dickens’ most popular tale cracks along at a superb pace, easily beguiling its 70-minute run-time. A one-man show is always a daunting prospect which is, perhaps, the thinking behind inclusion of the large rod-and-stick Scrooge puppet as a sort of counterpart to bounce off but it’s a decision not without its own risks. Holding an audience’s attention alone is difficult doing so whilst firmly anchored centre-stage by a stubbornly unmoving puppet is to set oneself quite a challenge.Thankfully it’s one that Dominic Gerrard is more than equal to.

With little more than a couple of props for the puppet Scrooge (and none for himself) Gerrard manages to create distinct and varied personalities for each of the play’s nineteen major characters, as well as a suitably dry and unobtrusive narrator character for himself. Tim Carroll’s directorial touch is plain to see in many of these characters but each has clearly come from the performer and so all work together very smoothly.

Given the performer's theatrical experience you might expect skilful characterisation for himself but what’s very impressive is his rapport with the slightly creepy and cadaverous Scrooge puppet. Gerrard is not a puppeteer by training but the show really comes to life once he lays hands on Scrooge and he coaxes an impressive range of emotion from its stiff limbs and carven face. There are a few minor glitches – lines addressed to Scrooge but directed straight at the audience, a few slightly repetitive gestures for guilt and remorse – but overall his movements are fluid, lifelike and expressive, making the puppet’s end-of-show transition from living, breathing character back to inanimate object particularly affecting.

While the stage can, at times, feel a little bare, the haunting violin score of Christmas standards enhances the emotional content of this story of Christmas redemption and the catacombish surroundings of the Waterloo East Theatre add another dimension by subtly reminding us of Christmas Carol’s ghost-story influences, edging the play’s circle of warm candlelight with a ring of darkness.

With his version of A Christmas Carol, Dominic Gerrard has succeeded admirably in breathing new life into a classic. His adaptation touches on parts of the novella which many versions skate over – Fred’s party, the lighthousemen’s Christmas - giving us new gems from a well-mined tale and its honest interpretation of Dickens’ warmth and sly humour keeps it engaging throughout. Meanwhile, the fast pace, engaging design and tight runtime make it ideal Christmas fare for slightly older children making the transition to mature theatre.

A superbly developed show for those want seasonal cheer with just the tiniest edge of frost.

Reviews by Tom King

Underbelly, Cowgate

Lucy Farrett: Lois

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

She Sells Sea Shells

★★★★
Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square / Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Award-winning director Tim Carroll (Twelfth Night & Richard III, Globe/West End) directs a third play in London this December: a magical retelling of Dickens’s best loved Christmas story: A Christmas Carol. Adapted and performed by Dominic Gerrard, the show transports the audience - stave by stave - through Scrooge's life as he journeys out, one bleak Christmas night, with the ghosts that have been sent to reclaim him... The production incorporates puppetry and music, whilst closely following Dickens' classic narrative. and forms part of the Dickens 2012 bicentenary celebrations.

Most Popular See More

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets