Watching European Arts Company’s A Christmas Carol at Greenwich Theatre was the perfect way to start the festive season. It retells the much-loved classic in true Dickensian fashion and will leave even the most stubborn of humbugs brimming with Christmas spirit.
John O’Connor, onstage solo throughout the show’s entirety, narrates Dickens’ tale in Victorian attire, staying true to the original story. Accompanied by only a chair and a reading stand, he uses emotion and acting prowess to engage the audience in an authentic production. This more than makes up for the show’s limited cast and is its greatest strength. O’Connor switches fluidly from narrating to performing the dialogue of the story’s varied characters, delivering Ebenezer Scrooge’s trademark phrase with remarkable vehemence moments before taking the role of his jolly nephew Fred. The stiff facial expressions adopted when playing the miser melt as he makes his transition to merry maker, and it’s subtle features like this which bring the character to life.
Greenwich Theatre is a pertinent venue for the show, given that Dickens featured the area in many of his works and gave public readings at Greenwich Literary Institution. This is channelled into the show, making you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to one of these recitals. O’Connor’s deft control of the stage holds the audience’s attention, and a projector screen depicting Victorian London in winter provides an immersive backdrop. If this alone wasn’t enough, sound effects like the metronomic tick of a clock and creaking steps create an eerie ambience.
Shivering in your seat from the soulless words of Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past, it’s a relief when Scrooge is taken to the feasting Cratchit household by the Ghost of Christmas Present. O’Connor vividly illustrates this cosy scene of a family enjoying a sumptuous dinner, pairing extravagant gestures with Dickens’ descriptions to make your mouth water. His energy throughout the show is sustained and peaks in this scene, which provides the audience with a welcome respite from the eeriness of the previous scenes before the story’s climax.
Few adaptations of A Christmas Carol can evoke as much profound sympathy for Scrooge as this production does. It’s impossible to be unmoved by O’Connor’s fearful and penitent tone as the miser crouches before his own tombstone. Scrooge’s transformation happens gradually—there is no lightbulb moment where he suddenly decides to embrace Christmas and spread goodwill. This makes the cheerful ending much more impactful, giving you confidence that his change of heart is genuine and not a flash in the pan caused by spectral visits. It’s another instance of the story echoing Dickens’ original text.
The use of a single actor helps to make the production more enjoyable for those well acquainted with Dickens’ works, however, it may make it difficult for those who are unfamiliar with A Christmas Carol to follow its story. It is by no means a fault, but is something to consider before purchasing a ticket.
European Arts Company’s production is a wonderful reminder of the importance of friendship and family. I can’t have been the only audience member that left Greenwich Theatre with a smile on their face, counting down the days until Christmas with childish glee.
Tickets for A Christmas Carol at Greenwich Theatre can be purchased online.
Words by Julius Lawless-Master
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