We never tend to review cinema screenings of theatrical works but Simon Callow’s one man show of A Christmas Carol proves far too special not to mention in despatches. Having written and performed a one man reading of the same story himself, East Midlands Theatre reviewer Phil Lowe is curious to see this acclaimed on screen story telling and is mightily impressed. The screening was at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham on Tuesday 11th December by CinemaLive.
This one man adaptation and performance of Dickens’ classic novel of redemption and goodwill to everyone is superbly done by Simon Callow in this ‘made for cinema’ version. Of course cinema is a more intimate experience than the theatrical space where one would expect projection and perhaps some meaty bombast and no turkey in the telling. Having not been privy to earlier stage based performances it is only conjecture that brings one to this conclusion. However, in the cinematic version it is certainly in the part whispered collusions of Callow’s characters and the subtle illusory worlds of time passing in an old derelict modern day building that make the story really special.
None of the Christmas Carol characters are made overly grandiose but all are portrayed with a masterful depiction and lightness of touch. Callow’s focus on the exchanges is extra-ordinary and our cinema audience is completely wrapped up in his story telling right from the scuttling mice- off. It seems that the locations are genuinely freezing cold and it is commendable that Callow, wrapped up in his layers, puts all the hour plus single player text across without chattering teeth. Charles Dickens would indeed be most proud of this splendid expository and exploratory work by one of our rich figgy pudding best of British actors. This reviewer really takes to the performance process of referring to an event happening but bringing the performing focus to the forefront of the story-telling not re-enacting it to doubly emphasise the point being made. This adds a genuine magic to the piece.
It is all the more moving because the characters aren’t caricatured and indeed seem to be of our contemporary world crossed with those in the mid 1800s. We feel for them in the direst of their plights as well as their festive delights.
Apart from the excellently chosen down at heel interior locations and subtle spooky effects the sound effects supporting many of the scenes are superbly considered and demonstrated. They really give an impression of others being present in the scene but are calculated to represent vital voices from memory re-lived. One almost expects to see bustlingly busy and noisy pigeons fly across the seated audience in the cinema scattering spare pin feathers amongst us.
Our cinema audience applauded at the end. We hope that you heard them Mr Callow. Your talents and those of the production team were mightily appreciated.
For those who missed the screening we can declare that the show is being broadcast on Sunday 16th December at 22.00hrs on BBC Four. One not to be missed. Humbug? I think not sir. God Bless Us Every- One. And don’t be late for work the next morning of we will dock your pay!
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Phil Lowe is a member of UK Theatre.