Thursday, 6 December 2012

A Christmas Carol, Dec 5, 2012 ****

Adapted from Charles Dickens
Performed by Phil Zachariah; Directed by James Adler
Athenaeum Theatre, until Dec 11, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on  Dec 6, 2012
A version of this review published in Herald Sun, in print and online.

 Phil Zachariah as Charles Dickens
IN THIS SKILFUL, SOLO ADAPTATION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the versatile Phil Zachariah channels Charles Dickens, writer and raconteur, recreating the world of Victorian London and inhabiting a parade of eccentric, Dickensian characters.

The funny and moving production directed by James Adler sees Zachariah as Dickens conducting the story like a maestro, enacting and enlivening the prose, lifting it from the page and transforming it into drama, just as Dickens himself did in his public readings and tours.

The text is astutely selected and edited then performed as self-narration that is accompanied and invigorated by deft physicalisation, clever characterisation and direct address to the audience.

Zachariah introducing us to a bevy of familiar personae, masterfully switching in an instant between characters with a shift in posture, an altered accent or a change in facial expression.

Ebenezer Scrooge, with his “Bah! Humbug!” attitude to Christmas, is the cold heart of the story, and Zachariah captures the character of this wizened, miserly, old misanthrope with a twisted physicality, a pinched face and a strangled, shrill voice.

Scrooge is forced to confront his cruel and penny-pinching attitudes on his Christmas Eve journey of self-revelation, led by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

He visits his own distant childhood and a jolly Christmas with the jovial Mr. Feziwig and his family, then is jolted by seeing his evolution into a grasping money-maker at the expense of his fiancee.

Zachariah portrays the entire family of Scrooge’s clerk, little Bob Cratchit, and amazes us with his swift and cunning depictions of Bob, his wife and all his children, including the crippled Tiny Tim.

We meet Scrooge’s cheerfully forbearing nephew and family, as well as a procession of street waifs, businessmen, servants and family members.

With only evocative lighting (Lucy Birkinshaw) and a curtained, classical doorway as a backdrop, Zachariah transforms himself and transports us to multiple locations, animating Dickens’ timeless story of one parsimonious, old man’s path to redemption and joy.

By Kate Herbert

Review published in Herald Sun, print and online.

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