EBENEZER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL
Tudor World, Stratford upon Avon, Wednesday 5th December, 2018
The most famous ghost story of all time comes to the most haunted house in the country in this enchanting, one-man version of Charles Dickens’s perennial favourite. It’s a promenade piece and an intimate one, with a cap on audience members to a dozen per performance; we are led through the building by our host and narrator, Ebenezer Crouch, who blends friendliness with otherworldliness.
“Marley was dead to begin with,” Crouch begins at the entrance to the museum, a kind of cold opener, before the more mundane advisories about the uneven floors and low ceilings within. He shepherds us into the ticket office/gift shop, which serves as Scrooge’s office, where the story begins and ends. Illuminated only by the dim light of the lantern he carries, Crouch is at once an engaging narrator, embodying Dickens’s characters and switching between them in the span of a breath. Each one, the major players and the walk-ons, appears fully formed, vocally and physically. We cannot help but be captivated from the get-go.
Crouch beckons us through the various sections of the Tudor barn, a surprisingly fitting backdrop to the Victorian tale, and never mind the anachronisms. Cast into shadow, the mannequins and furnishings of the exhibits add to the overall spookiness of the event.
We traipse after Crouch from room to room, and these moments are the only instances when the pacing can flag, as we reassemble in each shady spot. There is enough atmosphere in the building after dark to keep us in the mood.
Crouch is a consummate storyteller and actor, summoning out of Dickens’s prose a range of atmospheric scenes, running the gamut of human emotion. Now matter how familiar you might be with the story and its countless incarnations, Crouch’s retelling renders it fresh, proving you don’t need special effects. You don’t even need music or a change of costume, when all you’ve got it is the words of Dickens (a man who knew how to read aloud) and the spellbinding talents of a skilful storyteller.
Devised and performed by Paul Norton, this is a Christmas cracker. Bone-chilling and heart-warming, this version reaffirms what Dickens knew: that Christmas is a time to remember the common humanity we share. Sadly, in Tory Britain, the message is ever more pertinent.
This is the must-see show of the season, but you’ll have to be quick to grab your tickets. The run is strictly limited and audience capacity is, by necessity, restricted. Call Tudor World on 01789 298070 and give yourself a Christmas present.