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A Christmas Carol – As told by Jacob Marley (Deceased) review at Gulbenkian Canterbury

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For 75 minutes of Berkoffian physical theatre and riveting acting, you’d be hard put to beat this fine one-man show. Hyland’s Jacob Marley, his clothes grey and ragged and his face haggard and pale with terrifying red eyes, really does look as if he’s “dead as a door nail” thanks to Nicki Martin-Harper’s excellent work as costume and make-up designer.

Hyland frees himself laboriously from his chains before telling Scrooge’s story and acting all the parts with stunning voice work. The diffident cockney voice for Bob Cratchett and the sonorous tones of the Ghost of Christmas Present are both delightful. And Hyland can create a character – such as Scrooge’s cheery nephew Fred before reverting to Scrooge – with the merest shift of a shoulder or foot. The highly effective dwarfish Ghost of Christmas Past, for example, comes from Hyland’s jumping a yard and crouching with a sneer.

Telling this well-known story from Marley’s point of view is a neat way of turning the tale on its head and creating a first person narrative. It does away with the omniscient narrator of the original Dickens story and personalises the storytelling. Almost all the words, however, are straight Dickens with all the humour, moral points and drama – Hyland’s howling as a grieving Bob Cratchett is unforgettable.

Production Information

Gulbenkian, Canterbury, December 12, then touring until December 29

Charles Dickens, adapted by James Hyland
James Hyland
Brother Wolf
James Hyland
Running time
1hr 15mins
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