AS SATISFYING AN ENSEMBLE PIECE AS A SOLO PERFORMANCE CAN EVER BE
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Charles Dickens
Presented by Ray Henwood
at Circa Two, Wellington
From 7 Dec 2012 to 22 Dec 2012
Reviewed by Maryanne Cathro, 8 Dec 2012
Dickens' Christmas story of Scrooge's redemption is almost as famous as the one about the baby, the virgin and the stable; indeed I suspect that more versions of it have been produced for stage and TV. And yet, while all of these adaptations may capture the story, I wonder how many of us have read the original novella, or heard it read?
Ray Henwood's solo performance has reminded me that the words, as written, are the best possible version. Every word spoken comes from the original text, presented as a mixture of enactment and story telling. It is a story meant to be heard, and it truly comes alive in this performance.
Henwood's voice has the satisfying depth and range of the perfect Christmas dinner, from turkey to plum pudding. Dickens' words are very much at home in his lilting cadences, brimming with humour and pathos.
Matching that richesse are equally rich production values: Gillie Coxhill's costumes, particularly the velvet waistcoat glowing like whisky in a cut crystal tumbler; Ulli Briese's lighting; Ross Jolly's sound design and Philip Markham's simple but evocative set. All of these wrap themselves around the story teller and become as one with the story itself. It is as satisfying an ensemble piece as a solo performance can ever be.
I am trying to avoid using the word ‘dramatised' in describing this reading, as drama is also the opposite of comedy, and this is a very funny show. Many spontaneous belly laughs broke out on opening night. But to ensure no-one is left thinking that Henwood stands at a lectern and simply reads, he is enacting the words; moving through the space and story from counting room to bed, from past to future, inhabiting the characters in voice and body as they appear in the story.
I have in previous reviews called Circa Two my Happy Place, and this show adds to my happiness. It is enjoyable, uplifting, thought provoking and entertaining. It is a privilege to see such talent in such an intimate venue.
I would dearly love to look out upon the audience however and see more people under 40 appreciating an experience that would be just as entertaining for them as for the wise older heads who know where to find the ‘good stuff' happening.
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See also reviews by:
Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);