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A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Fitzrovia Radio Hour – Spiegeltent, Leicester Square ★★★★

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Spiegeltent, Leicester Square, London – until 30 December 2017

LARKING  WITHIN TENT… As an old radio hack, who started a career over forty years ago in the days when “spot effects” in drama studios were one of the more amusing jobs, I have a feeling for the quintet who create the “Fitzrovia Radio Hour”. In play-that-goes-wrong style they not only score off one another’s fictional actor-personae, but ramp up the comedy by struggling to do the sound effects. It rings true: I remember doing“footsteps” in the gravel tray while clutching the doorbell, and hitting cabbages with an axe for the more bloodstained French Revolution-themed plays.

So the comedy has a double edge of memory for me, but the group’s success has found a wider, younger following, enchanted by the retro struggles onstage. The only thing that doesn’t ring true for me is that, US-style, they’re doing it with ads and product placement. But hey, a lot of the crowd in the Spiegeltent in December are Americans too..

Here, four players take the first hour without “Stanley de Pfeffel”, the veteran who always plays Scrooge and who has been (possibly on purpose) hospitalized by the collapse from a theatre fly-tower of “the entire set of the Importance of Being Earnest”.

That the fifth will indignantly reappear is increasingly likely (nice use of the echo-plate here). The others proceed, entertainingly deploying in a witty set their mass of domestic and DIY equipment. There is sexual tension between one pair and respective morning/resentment for dePfeffel by the other.

There was a point when it lagged a bit, 45 minutes in, but a fine coup de theatre with Scrooge’s third ghost turns it around, and the ripples and barks of laughter start up again as it accelerates. All power to Michael Lumsden here… enuff said.

As a merciful 75-minute, £ 18.50 break from the maelstrom of London Christmas shopping, it is good value.

 

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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