Scrooge & Marley
Some shows are prize turkeys. Some shows, like this one, just depict the buying of prize turkeys through the medium of well-handled character acting. In response, AMI JONES’ cup o’er runneth with cheer and bodily effusions.
ADC, 11pm, 9th – 12th, £4-6
Directed by Andrew Brock and Oliver O’Shea
I happen to effing love Charles Dickens. The murky Victorian London backdrop, the sneaky sliding between wit and pathos, all them goofy, goofy characters… what’s not to adore? So the prospect of a two-man retelling of A Christmas Carol had two potential outcomes. I would either be salivating the saliva that only a rabid literary fan can generate or weeping the tears of blooded rage only a rabid literary fan can generate.
It is probably becoming quickly evident to you which bodily fluid won out. Yes, I happened to also effing love Scrooge & Marley. It was all there. A set that Dickens’ imagination would have been mightily proud of, carefully strewn with murky shadows and dusty ledgers. Sharp snaps between effortless comedy and genuine moments of sadness. And all them goofy, goofy characters, delivered with stupid levels of grace and confidence by the dynamic duo of George Potts and James Swanton.
Both seemed to be doing a hundred things at once while at the same time doing very little at all. The energy ebbed and flowed between the two as each gave what they were best at. Anyone who’s seen Swanton in anything before this doesn’t need me to describe the wonderfully mad eccentricity of his character acting, and this performance allows him to deliver a goody-bag packed with caricatured delights. And Potts displays his enviable range as an actor as he highlights both the ridiculousness and tragedy of Dickens’ writing with great sensitivity. I haven’t seen a character as ludicrously laughable yet capable of pulling my heart-strings as his Tiny Tim in a while.
And how lovely it was to just be told a story. Charlie D himself couldn’t have done better. Swanton deserves extra credit here for his adaptation of Dickens’ novella, mixing dialogue lifted from the text with carefully selected passages of descriptive prose to press Dickens’ words into life. Directors Brock and O’Shea don’t try to display tiring levels of Cambridge-bred cleverness. I was reeled in, reviled by Scrooge even while pitying him, alternately amused and saddened by the pathetic Cratchit family and will even confess to a fleeting moment of terror at the ‘Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’.
My only regret was that it seemed to flicker by all too quickly. Potts and Swanton shift from character to character and from scene to scene with such speed that I felt cheated of enough time to respond to Scrooge’s growing humanity at the visits from each spirit. And Potts in particular is occasionally guilty of allowing self-assuredness slip into overconfidence.
A hefty season of yuletide merriment approaches us, friends. And I’ll be damned if this isn’t the finest start a Christian soul could wish for, by Jove! God bless us, every one!