A Christmas Carol review at Brighton Royal Pavilion – ‘a festive treat’
Having toured successfully last year, European Arts Company revisits its one-man production of A Christmas Carol – a show that, rather than adapting the well-known story for the stage, instead seeks to recreate Dickens’ hugely popular public readings of his book.
From the Muppets to Bill Murray to Doctor Who, A Christmas Carol is a story that is constantly being reshaped for our times. It’s a tale that can survive pretty much anything that is thrown at it, but there’s a particular charm in seeing it so stripped back to the basic text.
John O’Connor is an engaging and charismatic performer, slipping deftly between the characters, aided by little more than some smartly used sound effects and tight direction from Peter Craze. He clearly relishes Dickens not just as storyteller but also as wordsmith, and the pleasure of the production’s approach is that in scenes that, in an adaptation, become all action and dazzle – such as the Fezziwigs’ party – we can appreciate the tiny, subtle touches of language that make the book such a joy.
The piece is performed in the lushly ornate setting of Brighton Pavilion (where Dickens himself did a reading), and interval drinks take place in the spectacular banqueting hall, adorned for a Victorian-fantasy Christmas, surrounded by roaring fires. So, at times, for all its simplicity – there’s nothing on the actual stage but some screens, a chair and a podium – this almost feels immersive. But even stripped of such trappings, O’Connor’s performance is a delight. A festive treat.