Sunday, 15 December 2013

'A Christmas Carol' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

This evening I put my festive foot forward and headed to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a reading of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'.

It's a great story and one I've read many times in the run up to Christmas and we all know Ebenezer Scrooge. To get us in the mood the foyer was decorated with gaudy Christmas lights and a small brass band playing carols and songs. There was mulled wine and mince pies at the bar (re-named the Queen Liz for some reason) and the place was packed. The only thing missing was a Christmas Tree (and the stage would have benefited from one, I think).

Griff Rhys Jones played Dickens who narrates the tale, with Bill Paterson as Scrooge, Tim Pigott-Smith as Marley, Phil Daniels as Bob Cratchit and Janine Duvitski as his wife as well as others, all playing multiple roles. Each reader stepped forward to their microphone as it came their turn to speak and, on a screen at the back of the stage, were projected old Victorian illustrations from the book as the story progressed. We found a cast list laid out like a Christmas card on our seats when we went in. I'll keep it as a memory of a lovely evening.

They all did terribly well and helped evoke the spirit of Christmas. Mr Scrooge, of course, understands the Christmas spirit more than most of us and becomes the embodiment of it. Bill Paterson was most excellent as Scrooge with a nice mix of whine and incredulity as he has his adventures with the ghosts. I also quite liked Freddie Fox as his namesake, Fred (Scrooge's nephew), who for once didn't annoy me. Janine and Phil were excellent as the Cratchits as was Griff as Mr Dickens.

It was adapted for a one and a half hours reading by Rosie Kellagher. That must have been a brave undertaking since it's known very well by so many people and, probably, by  most of the audience. At first I noticed, 'oh that bit's gone' and 'that scene's missed out' but then I gave in and went with it, enjoying what we were given. She did a jolly good job.

It was only on for one evening so you won't be able to see it but it would be a good tradition to start and read it every year. Next time (if there is a next time) they should read it in costume - and have a Tree on the stage.

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