'A Christmas Carol' - a collaboration between Smoking Apples, Sam Wyer and Petersham Playhouse

Of the no doubt many productions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on offer this year, the one at The Petersham Playhouse is perhaps the most slippery. The venue is not a theatre but a Georgian mansion by the Thames at Richmond, and it plays host to a site specific promenade production of the Dickens classic. The audience begins its journey on muddy ground outside in near darkness, and it isn’t until we’re safely indoors that we encounter the puppets.

Clanking chains and moaning herald the contorted ghost of Jacob Marley, whose appearance (manipulated and voiced by Les Enfants Terrible`s Samuel Wyer) adds interest and richness to the proceedings. However, the pacing of both action and dialogue feels in need of some incisive directing.

The three visions of Christmas – Past, Present and Yet to Come – are large-scale puppets with the operators mostly in full view, voicing their characters. Christmas Past is a disturbing image of a china doll with a cracked face – the body cunningly constructed around an umbrella, its lace robe pulsating about it like the skirts of an airborne jellyfish. On cue it lights up from within, an unsettling if not altogether successful idea, probably viewed best from the front.

The candlelit conservatory holds the cheery Ghost of Christmas Present. He introduces two gents who perform a self-indulgent show of slapstick gluttony, all in slow motion. Neat object theatre constructs the Cratchit household out of kitchen utensils. However, it’s hard to feel much sympathy towards Tiny Tim, constructed as he is out of knives and crockery, even though the puppeteers work together well to create the boy’s limp. In the ballroom, an impressively tall and ragged Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come looms over the closing scenes. Its drawn-out moment of glory needs tightening up with clear direction and the show’s finale is a bit of a damp squib.

‘A Christmas Carol’ was good in parts and the Smoking Apples are nicely inventive, their puppetry careful and focused – but they let themselves down with a bump, vocally. Their live voices aren't versatile enough and this is something they need to work on if they're to hold their own in the future.

Credits

'A Christmas Carol' - a collaboration between Smoking Apples, Sam Wyer and Petersham Playhouse
6,7,8 and 13,14,15 Dec 2013

 

Quotes

"Christmas Past is a disturbing image of a china doll with a cracked face – the body cunningly constructed around an umbrella, its lace robe pulsating about it like the skirts of an airborne jellyfish."

Additional Info

The perfomance continues on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week, with time slots at 6.30pm, 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm and 8.30pm. It lasts approximately 1 hour 15 mins and tickets are £22.

Links

www.smokingapplestheatre.com
www.petershamplayhouse.com