WITH a plethora of Christmas shows and pantos being staged in theatres across the capital the clever chaps at the Fitzrovia Radio Hour have something a bit different up their collective sleeves to tempt audiences this festive season.
For a strictly limited four-week run, the team will bring a unique take on Charles Dickens’ timeless tale A Christmas Carol which they have reimagined as a 1940s style radio drama, broadcasting live with a studio audience across the mighty British Empire.
Fighting off visitations from more ghosts than they bargained for, can the multi-tasking cast keep the spiffing sounds and varied inhabitants of Victorian London alive for the duration of the broadcast?
Spectacular sound effects are created live, cut-glass accents, sharp suits and of course a good helping of spooky ghosts combine to create a unique alternative festive entertainment.
It will be staged in the intimate surroundings of The Vaults under Waterloo station, which has been specially adapted to include the option of cabaret seating for fearless audience members, and a festive welcome treat for everyone to get the traditional Christmas spirit flowing straight away.
The show has been created by the company’s Tom Mallaburn who tells me that audiences are in for a treat.
“Our company specialises in presenting 1940s inspired radio shows within a theatre setting,” he tells me.
“The audience gets to see all the inner workings of the show such as the sound effects which the actors perform themselves and the incorporation of some adverts to make it as authentic as possible.
“It’s very silly but it’s also a very visual experience partly because the five actors have to do their own sound effects. It makes it much more interesting to get them to do it rather than a specialist.
“As a result it all looks a bit chaotic because the actors are running around and across the stage to get to their spot or to do their sound effect on time - and over the years we have found the more difficult we made it for them the funnier it was.
“As well as it being brilliant for us to be part of, there is a real joy for the audience to see if the actor is going to be able to get to his or her spot on time and burst the balloon or smash a melon to get that sound effect.
“The idea is that the fictional listeners back home hear an almost perfect production but live in the theatre we can see a lot of the struggles going on and going wrong - something the listeners don’t have a clue about. It’s a lot of fun!”
Tom says this year’s choice of show was inspired by not just the time of year in which it was being staged but by a desire by the company to adapt famous stories.
“We’ve been doing these types of shows for a few years now and we usually we do three to four original stories a year. But recently we’ve tried adaptations of stories that everyone knows so that we can explore a significant sub plot within it.
“We wanted to show some kind of rivalry between the actors and it’s easier to introduce this if you have a recognisable story.
“We did Dracula last year and it went down really well so this year we decided to do Dickens.
“In this particular show there is quite a significant sub plot in which the chap who was going to play Scrooge has been severely incapacitated by a rival actor. The play was going to take place at the Old Vic but as the actor concerned was injured when someone opened the trap door, the venue is now a crime scene. So they hastily re-assemble the show at the Vaults as a temporary measure. However, the rival isn’t quite out of the way though and so chaos and hilarity are never far away.
“You will definitely get the A Christmas Carol story but a lot more as well!”
Tom says the company has got more adventurous with the sound effects over the years and admits that sometimes they do get a bit carried away.
“When we started out it was pretty simple,” he says. “We just read the radio script but audiences loved us doing sound effects with the objects we found to create them so it went from there.
“There is something satisfying about punching a cabbage til it dies or using melons or eggs - although we have to be careful. Sometimes we’ve had to give audiences ponchos as there can often be sprays of something.
“In one show we did one character had a horrible brain injury and had to have emergency brain surgery. To get the right sound of pressure being released and the brain coming out we used an egg being smashed and it went into the audience so we ended up having to re-choreograph the direction in which the egg was used!”
And while he can’t promise there won’t be any stray flying eggs Tom does say there will be plenty of crazy stuff to keep audiences entertained with this show. And he says they are looking forward to bringing the production to the Vaults, a space he says which lends itself perfectly to the atmosphere they are trying to create.
“We are really excited about being here and bringing this story here,” he says. “We have wanted to do it for a while and this is a fun and atmospheric venue. I’ve seen shows here before and it’s the right space for what we do.
“It’s all very silly of course and this is a show it would be difficult not to enjoy. We can’t wait!”
A Christmas Carol is suitable for those aged 12 and up and is on at the Vaults, Launcelot Street, Waterloo until January 31. Tickets cost from £20. Visit www.ChristmasCarolLondon.com or cal the box office on 020 7183 5942 for full listings.