Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
The Bakehouse Theatre, Thu Dec 18
A Christmas Carol is the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet-To-Come, written by Charles Dickens in Victorian England. Scrooge is a character we are all familiar with, even if it’s only Disney’s Scrooge McDuck, known for declaring “Here I sit in this big lonely dump, waiting for Christmas to pass! Bah! That silly season when everybody loves everybody else! A curse on it! Me—I’m different! Everybody hates me, and I hate everybody!”
I’ll admit, even my inner Scrooge shows up around the time as I spot the first antlers sticking out from car windows, or hear the same piped carols in department stores, supermarkets, post office, library, gym, restaurants, service station and everywhere else. Bah humbug! But I left Philip Zachariah’s telling of A Christmas Carol feeling gentler and less Scrooge-like.
The story is indeed a timeless classic, and this version was told with masterful characterization. Zachariah, dressed as a Victorian Gentleman and alone on a bare stage except for the simple props of a small wooden plinth, on which a glass of water and a well-thumbed book of the story were placed, recited the story as if he were Dickens himself. Each character was evoked by intense physicality and skilful story-telling talents with clarity and annunciation, though it was sometimes a little difficult to understand what was being said for the speed at which he spoke.
During the show I closed my eyes and listened, imagining Dickens himself was the story-teller and this could easily have been a magical radio play. Zachariah boomed as the ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Be and whimpered as the ashamed Scrooge seeing his own funeral and realising his cold-heartedness, then gripped the windowpane tight as he hollered to a boy on the street to buy the biggest remaining turkey at the butcher to gift to the Cratchet family.
Zachariah’s energy and love for Dickens was apparent throughout his performance. I completely understand how it could still be running after 11 years! The packed house of all ages were enthralled and delighted by the tale. When writing this story, Dickens chose to set the tale at Christmas time to remind folk about kindness, generosity and open-heartedness to fellow man, but really we don’t need a time of year to remember this. The story is powerfully enduring
My dislike for piped carols everywhere I go at this time of year are because I feel like it’s a brainwashing of sorts, that la-la-la all’s well and happy in the world, when clearly, it isn’t. Dickens, ever the humanitarian, was cleverly alerting the people of England in 1843 to think about poverty and social justice at a time of great abundance. Now is an excellent time for Philip Zachariah to perform A Christmas Carol for us. I’m glad I saw it.
by Kirsty Martinsen