MZG Theatre Productions and Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman in association with Bag Of Beard and Park Theatre
The mild-mannered clerk Bob Cratchit tends to get overshadowed in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, so Alexander Knott has made him the central character in a play that begins on Christmas Eve in the office of Scrooge and takes him on a ghostly journey into the future.
Snow edges the back of the set as Cratchit works at a desk aided by a single candle. Even in his gloves, he looks cold as he takes his flask out for a drink that he offers to a few of the audience. Speaking directly to them in a lyrical, rich, conversational style, he describes his precarious circumstances. “One foot wrong and you're out.”
To make that sacking quick and cheap, his employer Scrooge might simply call the police on the worker he is getting rid off. He recalls the old “fellow before me” left with a bad case of tuberculosis not helped by work conditions. Cynically, Cratchit comments, “the clock of industry and mortality never cease.”
John Dagleish gives a fascinating performance as Cratchit, his brilliant facial expressions and gestures enhanced by sudden changes of lighting as he briefly morphs into various other characters. Freya Sharp takes on the roles of Martha Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Scrooge’s nephew and various ghosts.
Leaving the office, his mood sinks further and, in a botched attempt to hang himself, he is taken by ghosts to the hell-like furnaces of a new industrial revolution, to the trenches of the First World War where he meets Tiny Tim, a soldier injured in useless battles, to the glitter and glare of what feels like a party in Soho London as thin figures (perhaps AIDS victims) stare down from their windows in “fear, anger and shame”.
One ghost he recognises from an earlier meeting is Stoneworthy, a con artist who tells him that conning people is the basis of this society and, as far as everyone else is concerned, “we men of power give them nothing.”
It's a bleak vision of what the world might become but, in the spirit of A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit is given a glimpse of an alternate, much more hopeful future to return him to his world and family. It’s a gentle, engaging performance that is worth seeing.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna