A Christmas Carol,
Venue: The Vaults Theatre, London
Producer: The Fitzrovia Radio Hour
Director: Owen Lewis
Adapted from Charles Dickens with Tom Mallaburn with Jon Edgley Bond
Cast includes: Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley, Michael Lumsden, Dorothea Myer-Bennett
Running time: 75 minutes
Dates of run: until Dec. 31
Adaptations of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol began around 30 years after his death and proliferated during the 1930s and 40s with a wealth of radio productions, notably one featuring Orson Welles and sponsored by Campbell’s Soup.
That is the cue for The Fitzrovia Radio Hour whose brand is based on recreating 1940s radio classics with a blend of homage and satire for a theatre audience.
They reproduce the chauvinism of the time and debunk it – and when it comes to a version of Dickens, death is a laughing matter, sentimentality is banished to the grave and the sponsor is Rathbone’s gin.
To ram home the comic heartlessness, the production frames the original Dickens story with the jealous back-stage rivalry of Ernest Andrew/Tiny Tim (played by Samuel Collings), who after 17 years of playing Tiny Tim feels it’s high time to play Scrooge but Stanley De Pfeffel (Michael Lumsden) has no intention of moving over.
The result is an overdose of Christmas humbug with two Scrooges and no Tiny Tim, while the women in the cast (Alix Dunmore as Vanity Fair and Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Gretchen Haggard) vie for the affections of the original Scrooge/De Pfeffel.
Instead of feeling, we have fun and the standout performance is not the hammy acting but The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s exaggerated sound effects, which we get to see as well as hear.
Drawing on the contents of a set reminiscent of a well-stocked kitchen, the cast turns a bread bin into slamming windows, a pile of tinsel into walking in the snow, a heap of chains into Marley’s Ghost and complements it all with the sound of Rathbone’s Christmas spirit swishing on to ice cubes.
Barbara Lewis © 2016.