From Plays and Players, 2/59

A Christmas Carol

Bu Charles Dickens, adapted by Joan Littlewood..  First performance at the Theatre Royal, London, E.15, on December 16, 1958.  Directed by Joan Littlewood, with settings by John Bury and costumes by Una Collins.

Ebenezer Scrooge, Howard Goorney; Bob Crachit, James Booth; Scrooge's Nephew, Murray Melvin; A Portly Gent, Glynn Edwards; Marley's Ghost, Edward Caddick; The Spirit of Christmas Past, Yootha Joyce; Mr. Fezziwig, Brian Murphy; Mrs. Fezziwig, avis Bunnage; Maria, Leila Greenwood; Young Maria, Stella Riley; The Spirit of Christmas Present, Glynn Edwards; Peter Crachit, Dudley Sutton; Belinda Crachit, Ann Beach; Mrs. Crachit, Avis Bunnage; Martha Crachit, Leila Greenwood; Tiny Tim, Terence Finlayson; Miners and Sailors, Clive Barker, Roy Barnett, Joe Lloyd; Emily, Ann Beach; Caroline, Stella Riley; Topper, Brian Murphy; Man, Edward Caddick; Old Joe, Brian Murphy; Mrs. Dilber, Leila Greenwood; Mrs. Trossit, Yootha Joyce; Dancers, The London Dancers; Pianist, Kathleen O'Connor; Fiddler, George Harvey Webb.

Joan Littlewood has that impeccable good taste which enables her to take liberties with an original script and even to introduce anachronisms of style into a production without ever doing anything which is in the slightest degree regrettable.  The only disservice she could ever do the theatre would be the involuntary one of acquiring imitators; for never will the many realise that rules are made for good reason and can only be broken successfully by the few.

Much as I revere the words from the immortal pen of Charles Dickens, I do not--for this once at any rate--regret the liberties taken in this script.  The most marked of these is changing Marley's Ghost from a horrible to a comic spectre. For a play intended as much for children as for adults, this must be a good thing: and when the comedy is as irresistible as that of Scrooge's encounter with Marley among the bed-curtains, it is a good thing by any standards.

Howard Goorney, always a very good character actor, achieves sheer brilliance as Scrooge, extracting comedy even from the worst aspects of the character as (upon reflection) Dickens may well have intended and only convention has overlaid.

Ann Beach, who first delighted me in R.A.D.A. shows and later in the title-role of Emlyn Williams' ill-fated Beth, is delightful as Belinda Crachit and Avis Bunnage gives one of her best performances as Mrs. Crachit.  James Booth is an admirable Bob, and young Terence Finlayson makes Tiny Tim a believable human boy instead of the too-good-to-be-true little horror too often envisaged.

Carol singers, musicians and dancing revelers are all incorporated into this production, adding to the Christmas gaiety and to the visual and audible decorativeness most delightfully.

One would like to see this show become a regular feature of the Christmas season.

--Lisa Gordon Smith