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Print Version

Director: James Adler
presented by An Eagle’s Nest Theatre, Capital Theatre Productions and Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand

at Middleton Grange School Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch
16 Nov 2012

Reviewed by Lindsay Clark, 16 Nov 2012

It is a great pity that this splendidly crafted piece seems to have arrived unheralded and will be gone before word of mouth can do it justice. Those happy few who found their way to the venue enjoyed a generous and masterly incarnation of the great novelist, reproducing the readings which Dickens himself once took on tour to the world. His glorious blend of humanity, wit and impeccable showmanship are all given a thorough airing in the classic account of the miser whose cold heart was first cracked and then restored to joy by a series of supernatural yuletide encounters.

Director James Adler could hardly have asked for a better likeness or more expressive actor than Phil Zachariah in this solo tour de force. Physically and vocally he creates the Dickensian world in a beautifully paced piece of story theatre which is nothing short of brilliant. For a start, the director/actor team have struck an intelligent balance between relishing the rich language and bringing it to convincing stage life. The familiar story is given fresh impact.

The actor himself is able to project the colourful range of characters, sometimes in dialogue with each other, effortlessly. The stage at Middleton Grange is wide and deep, but such is the amplitude of this performance that it is always filled by the energy and implication of word and action. 

Thus a crabbed and shrunken Scrooge is confronted by the towering spectre of his erstwhile partner, Jacob Marley, complete with the dragging chains forged by a misspent life. The Spirit of Christmas Past creates scenes of Scrooge's lonely childhood, failed romance and anti-social ways as an apprentice, before we are in the presence of the expansive embrace of Christmas Present, Scrooge's nephew and the multitudinous Cratchits, including the blissfully sentimental sketch of the youngest, crippled, Tiny Tim.

And so on to the revelations of the spirit who reveals the future – unless Scrooge mends his ways. His unkind words have all been shown in a different light and Scrooge at last allows himself to be lit up with the simple joy of wishing others well. 

As a much loved classic as well as a Victorian period piece, this story is always worth retelling. When it is handled with the warmth and skill of this touring production it becomes in addition a must see piece of theatre. 
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 John Smythe