RICH PLUM PUDDING OF A RENDITION
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Charles Dickens
Presented by Ray Henwood
at Circa Two, Wellington
From 7 Dec 2012 to 22 Dec 2012
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 10 Dec 2012
‘Has much changed?' is a question asked by Ray Henwood in the programme of his production of A Christmas Carol when we compare Victorian society with our own. Human nature hasn't improved and Dickens's message of the necessity of simple kindness, good cheer and redemption is as important as ever.
While watching Ray Henwood's rich plum pudding of a performance I realised that though I knew the story well I had no recollection of having either read A Christmas Carol or seen it on stage or screen. I suppose it's like Oliver's ‘Please sir, I want some more'; everyone has absorbed it as part of the culture but a great many people have never actually read the novel.
Henwood also states that he tried to hold onto the concept of ‘a reading' which is how Dickens first presented it in public before the numerous pirated play versions were created during his lifetime. But he also adroitly moves between a reading, which he does at a lectern, and a performance during which he casts aside the book and brings Scrooge and the rest into three-dimensional life.
The suitably miserly setting, ably lit by Ulli Briese, is occasionally embellished with some simple magic lantern effects; the sighting by Scrooge of Marley's face in the very large door knocker is the most effective.
But the real pleasure of the performance lies in Henwood's ability to make the words sing. His reading of the description of the Second Spirit's Christmas feast is just marvellous as he enjoys the lavishness of language that Dickens uses to describe it (‘barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples…immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch').
He also brings out the humour in the writing but without overstating it so that the opening passage about Marley being dead as a door-nail gently leads us into the ‘Ghostly little book' as Dickens described it. He finds humour in unexpected lines; for example, by bringing one's attention to ‘exclusive of the fringe' in the description of Bob's scarf: ‘with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him.”
A Christmas treat.
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Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);