Thursday, 15 December 2016

REVIEW - A Christmas Carol, Vaults Theatre


Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol has been given a bit of a theatrical makeover thanks to a new adaptation of the story by the Fitzrovia Radio Hour.
Set in the 1940s and staged deep underneath Waterloo Station at the Vaults, the five strong cast enact the story as a live radio broadcast with us as their studio audience. The actors even do their own sound effects and intersperse radio ads for gin into the mix. 
But it’s not quite as straightforward as that. For there is a nasty undercurrent as one of the cast has done the dirty on his rival and caused an accident that has resulted in said rival being taken to hospital - we are told he might not make it. Cue gasps!
We are also told as a result of the accident the stage at the Old Vic, where the broadcast was due to take place, is now a crime scene, hence the underground bunker of the Vaults.
It is all very silly and it really adds to the acting out of the proper story they are there to stage for us. 
The injured actor, Stanley De Pfeffel, had been due to play Scrooge for the 18th year. Instead he is replaced by Ernest Andrew, looking for all the world like Laurence Olivier, and sneeringly delighted he’s finally got a chance to ditch Tiny Tim and be Scrooge.
Ernest wastes no time in ingratiating himself with his fellow cast members who are all devastated at the news of Stanley’s accident - none more so than Stanley’s lover Gretchen Haggard.
They start the show and it all seems to go swimmingly until they get to the bit where Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge. And then all manner of spooky things happen - from lights flickering to voices echoing and lights collapsing from the ceiling.
In the end of course, Stanley emerges from his hospital bed to take back the role he was meant to do, to the horror of Ernest and the delight of the rest of the cast. Much merriment ensues as the two rivals battle it out on air.
It is brilliantly done, with some clever touches, very funny and silly and the cast are spot on with their cut glass accents and dexterity at the sound effects table, not to mention the pushing and shoving that goes on between the two rivals.
And what’s more at about 80 minutes straight through, it’s a show that is entirely suitable for children aged from about 12 and up.

A Christmas Carol is on at the Vaults, Launcelot Street, Waterloo until Saturday, December 31. Tickets cost from £20. Visit or call the box office on 020 7183 5942 for full listings.

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