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The Print Room at the Coronet in Notting Hill is an ideal venue for Clive Francis’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Between the sloping floor and bazar feel of the lounge to the two hundred seat theatre with fading walls, it is a warm, intimate place for a one-man show. Richard Irvine’s set and Alex Ramsden’s play on lights reflect the ambiance of the theatre on the stage: An old Persian rug, an armchair, a desk and a hanging portrait of Dickens. There is great joy in being told a good story, especially on a dark winter’s night and Francis’ rich voice transports us to the cold offices of Scrooge and Marley. Francis first played the part of the Ebenezer Scrooge in an RSC production over twenty years ago and clearly fell in love. He’s now made his own adaptation of the classic and it is great fun, with sound effects and light plays, to see Francis bring the characters – even the Ghosts – to life, while steering the tale forward the whole time as the narrator, in other words, Dickens himself.
One of the more poignant memories Scrooge revisits with the first spirit is the end of his marriage. Francis takes Scrooge from sadness to pain to rage when he sees the woman he lost to “another Idol” in a happy if humble new family. Follows a great scene in which Francis as Scrooge attacks the Ghost and tries to stuff an imaginary bonnet down an invisible spirit’s head. This is classic storytelling that requires us to listen and to imagine because everything is created here from words and movement alone. In this age of screens and memes, it is a precious experience for children and grown-ups alike.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol adapted and performed by Clive Francis continues till 14th December at the Coronet. Price £25 Concessions £20 (in the main auditorium)