Arts Theatre, London – until 12 January 2018
Simon Callow’s telling of A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre is theatrical perfection. A solo performance, aided only by subtly ingenious projections and the occasional, immaculately timed sound effect, sees Callow deliver Dickens’ classic festive fable in an 80-minute acting masterclass. Dressed plainly, but for the period, Callow’s narration is a tour de force, not only of vocal ingenuity – but of physical theatre too with his carefully choreographed movements only enhancing the story.
It is of course in Callow’s voice that the story comes alive. His tone takes us through, not only Ebenezer Scrooge’s nightmares and ultimate redemption – but also the characters in Scrooge’s world. Without once resorting to hackneyed cliché, Callow voices the supporting cast in a way that not only convinces, but moves the audience too, removing us from our 21st century screen-based world of visual hyper-stimulation and returning us instead to the land of our imagination, supplemented only by the hints of Dickensian London in Cairns’ elegant, minimal stage design.
The phrase ‘national treasure’ is bandied about far too loosely these days – but Callow ranks there, up amongst our cultural crown jewels. With his mellow, mellifluous timbre and gorgeous cadence, Callow’s take on the story is flawless and unique. Voices such as his are rare – go and catch this gem of a performance – it truly is London’s Christmas cracker!