A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Christopher Dennis

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BBC Radio 7, 27 December 2010

This familiar tale in Janet Whittaker’s production was told by a friendly narrator (Freddie Jones) who strove to take the listeners into his confidence, as he recounted Ebenezer Scrooge’s (Michael Gough’s) gradual conversion from miser into magnanimous host. We trusted in the narrator to guide us through; not only because he knew what was going to happen next, but because he seemed in control of his material, despite Scrooge’s valiant attempts to stop him speaking.


A Christmas Carol was transformed into a Victorian morality-play taking place on Christmas Eve, in which Scrooge was presented with visions of his past, present and future. They were presented in dramatic form with Scrooge the unwilling witness, learning the consequences of his actions. The sequences allowed for some well-observed cameos, such as Bob Cratchit (Danny Schiller) or Scrooge’s nephew (Douglas Hodge), but they lacked dramatic tension; we knew from the outset what would happen to the old miser. As a result the adaptation tended to drag somewhat: with no element of surprise to engage the attention, we could only celebrate Scrooge’s conversion. Director Whittaker seemed to be aware of this problem, which is why she encouraged Gough’s Scrooge to moan at regular intervals, reminding us of just how much suffering he was experiencing. She also fell back on the familiar cliché of Dickens adaptations of peopling the background with lowlife characters speaking mockney (i.e. mock-cockney accents), to situate the action in its appropriate socio-historical context.


Nonetheless this version of A Christmas Carol had some good performances: Gough played a pantomime villain (repeating the word “humbug!” as two distinct syllables, with the stress placed on the second) converted into benefactor by the good angels. Other memorable performances came from Timothy Bateson (Mr. Fezziwig), Robert Eddison and Peter Woodthorpe as two of the ghosts, and Schiller.