Review: A Christmas Carol at Clwyd Theatr Cymru

A CHRISTMAS CAROL/Emlyn Williams Theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold, until December 31

REVIEW/by Peggy Woodcock

WHEN Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, little could he have known what a long and varied life his little morality tale would have.

It always makes good theatre, and Clwyd Theatr Cymru has a particularly charming and intelligent version running this festive season, a complete contrast to the noisy panto neighbour next door.

A one man show, it proves that the power of the piece lies in the words. It follows splendidly the tradition for readings started by the author himself.

The performer and adaptor is Robert Perkins and, while he had help from video screenings and sound effects, it was his multi-faceted performance that held our attention.

The stage was bare, but for a lectern desk. Wearing all purpose white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, Perkins began confiding the familiar story of Scrooge and his skinflint ways. The closeness of the Emlyn Williams Theatre provided the perfect setting.

A confident narrator, he drew in his body, hunched a shoulder, screwed his face and became unmistakeably the miserable miser. For the scene setting encounters with his poor clerk, his well-meaning nephew and the benevolent charity collectors – 'Are there no workhouses, are there no prisons?' Scrooge's famous response – Perkins adeptly changed character to play all roles.

Marley's ghost, and the succeeding spirits of Christmas Past, Present and future, were all visions on a back screen, shadows effectively conveying their disparate messages.

The first came through Marley's mournful voice and clanking chains. The second from Christmas Past, guide to Scrooge's bleak childhood, with the brief sunlight of his loving sister and jolly employer Fezziwig. Again Perkins slipped easily between characters.

Christmas Present introduced the Cratchitt family including its most famous member, the disabled Tiny Tim, and I have to say the actor's rendition of them all relishing a glorious Christmas feast – in reality the most meagre of fare – was a highlight. Set the taste buds tingling!

With Christmas Future came the comic tragedy of Scrooge's threatened demise and here Perkins squeezed every nuance from prose and dialogue, full drama from the promised grave. No wonder Scrooge mended his ways and so, on a warmly lit stage, Perkins took the old miser to a triumphantly benevolent finish.

It was a masterly performance and full credit, too, to Emma Lucia's well-paced direction, and to excellent shadow work from Kimberley Lyon, drama student, former pupil of the Hammond School, Chester, and Helen Tonge, previously in theatre production, now studying English at university.