‘Disturbing & darkly funny, with two bravura performances’: CRATCHIT – Park Theatre ★★★★

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Park Theatre, London – until 8 January 2022
Guest reviewer: Claire Roderick

Alexander Knott’s atmospheric take on A Christmas Carol places Bob Cratchit centre stage as familiar events from Dickens’ story are related to the audience through his eyes. What begins as a seemingly straightforward retelling soon develops into something darker and more surreal as Bob is fleshed out and he becomes more three-dimensional and much more interesting than the long-suffering character we know. Although Scrooge becomes a side character in the play, his influence is ever-present as Bob details the events leading up to Christmas Eve.

It turns out that Threadneedle and Stoneworth are nasty thugs a la Bill Sykes, who take advantage of a drunk Bob to set up the con of collecting for charity and are not best pleased when they can’t get money out of Scrooge. Their retribution forces Bob into a downward spiral where he contemplates violence against Scrooge and himself until Marley’s ghost announces the visits of three ghosts.

John Dagleish is incredible as Cratchit – morphing between Bob, Threadneedle and the Master with wondrous ease. He gives a masterclass in physicality and characterisation during the scenes where he is basically beating himself up in the confrontations between Threadneedle and Bob. The darker, less likeable side of Bob that Knott creates are not glossed over, with Bob directing explanations and excuses to the audience in a matey way.

This is still a very Victorian creation with attitudes of that period, and Dagleish manages to keep the audience’s sympathy throughout. Freya Sharp plays various members of the Cratchit family, as well as nephew Fred and John Stoneworth – broad and comic in the first act, but with a more sinister edge in the second. The pair work brilliantly together, with their contrasting styles complimenting each other and adding an extra layer to the discomfort and confusion Bob is feeling.

Emily Bestow’s set is sparse but effective – universal enough to be evocative in every nightmare setting the ghosts show Bob. James Demaine and Samuel Heron’s sound and music is phenomenal, with the eerie soundscape during the interval enough to make your skin crawl and definite encouragement to escape to the bar.

Knott’s visions of the future that cause Bob to re-evaluate his life are both nightmarish and ridiculous, leaving the audience as disorientated as Bob as he is shown a soulless industrial revolution and the horrors of war before a seemingly idyllic late 20th century Soho reveals its bleak underside. Throughout the drama, there is always a sly aside from Bob to the audience to lighten the tone and relieve the tension, and Bob’s final realisation may not be earth shattering, but felt perfect for the character.

Disturbing and darkly funny, with two bravura performances, Cratchit is a must see for anyone who likes a chilling tale for Christmas.

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‘Disturbing & darkly funny, with two bravura performances’ from @JohnDagleish & @freyalsharp: @FairyPowered on @AlexKnott95’s #CratchitThePlay at @ParkTheatre. ★★★★ #theatrereviews #featured

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Fairy Powered Productions is a website set up by lifelong theatre lover Susan Lindsay to cover news, views, interviews and reviews. A place for all things theatrical, it concentrates on the talent appearing in the regions as well as the West End.
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Fairy Powered Productions on FacebookFairy Powered Productions on RssFairy Powered Productions on Twitter
Fairy Powered Productions
Fairy Powered Productions is a website set up by lifelong theatre lover Susan Lindsay to cover news, views, interviews and reviews. A place for all things theatrical, it concentrates on the talent appearing in the regions as well as the West End.

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