FringeReview USA 2023
This version of the beloved Christmas Carol, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens performs the classic tale of redemption and charity as a one-man show with a script directly from the cherished text.
It’s difficult to imagine a time where the tale of Scrooge and his four ghostly visitors was not a part of Christmas’s genetic makeup. Perhaps the reason why it seems so bound to our understanding of the holiday is because how we experience Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. Upon its publication, the book was wildly popular and resulted in the embrace of Christmas as a time of generosity and charitable given. Dickens essentially gave us the concept of the Christmas Spirit, and as such, each subsequent adaptation is met with higher scrutiny than poorly judged covers of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’. It has become very important that this story be done correctly, be done right, or else Christmas just won’t be Christmas. What defter hands are there, then, than the great-great grandson of Boz himself?
Gerald Dickens brings A Christmas Carol down to brass tacks, giving us a one-man Carol that sticks closely to the original text, honed over thirty years of performance. With little set and fewer props, Dickens expertly brings to life each character as though it is a second skin, which it must feel like now after so many years of experience. Through his own direction, perfected over years through improvisation, he at times physically embodies one character while speaking as another, or hands props between two characters, switching so seamlessly it is easy to forget that there is only one man on stage. Lines that have lost their meaning over decades of exposure are given fresh meaning. In stripping down everything to the text and the performer, we are reminded of the proficiency of both, and its a truly delightful thing to experience.
The adaptation itself is brisk, and for the most part the ninety minutes fly by. There are many laughs to be had, and the audience was receptive especially to moments where Dickens broke character to admonish us for lack of response, or apologize for his ancestor’s strange choice of words. Despite it being such a told tale, there are ample opportunities for heart-string tugging, and Dickens makes good work of those moments with his complete commitment to many of the characters we know so well. The only caveat is with the female characters, who are somewhat underdeveloped and simpering on stage despite the weighty source material provided for the long-suffering Mrs. Cratchit and Scrooge’s ex-fiancee Belle. This is especially noticeable in the inclusion of a diverting but unnecessary sketch of a lovestruck female guest at a Christmas party, especially when the more poignant character of Scrooge’s sister Fan is omitted and missed. That being said, it is difficult to find things about this production that are not charming and Christmas-cheer inducing, and it is well worth your time during this festive season.
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, go to geralddickens.com to see if this production is coming to a theater near you.