CentralDramaReview

A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play – The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writer: Charles Dickens

Adaptor: Joe Landry

Director: Adam Lacey

It’s Christmas at the Old Joint Stock, and after last year’s enforced break the team are back with their now-traditional Christmas production of a live radio play. This year it’s A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Broadcast, and if you’re wondering how adapting a book to a play to a radio broadcast can possibly work as a stage production, the answer is – it works pretty well.

It’s a form of play within a play. A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Broadcast is set in the 1940s, where a team of five actors are in the radio studio performing A Christmas Carol and you effectively play the role of the 1940s audience watching the radio play. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually not – when the ‘Applause’ light comes on, you clap and cheer, and so on. To create interest, the cast also performs all of the sound effects and, rather than simply standing by the microphone as you would find in reality, there is an element of acting-out the Dickens characters too.

It starts, as every good TV or radio broadcast does, with the audience warm-up, and we get to sing a couple of Christmas songs to get us in the mood, the cast is introduced and off we go. Nick Delvallé plays Freddy Filmore, who’s voicing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. The stoop over a cane and the snarl help us to see inside the character as out comes the voice of an irascible old miser. The remaining four share the rest of the roles between them. Michael Crump, in the role of Jake Laurents, gives us an ebullient Fred and Ghost of Christmas Present alongside more downbeat portrayals of Marley and the Undertaker’s Man.

Blake Heaven as Harry “Jazzbo” Haywood is a cheerful Bob Cratchit, and also voices a convincingly child-like Tiny Tim. Elloise Thomson as Sally Applewhite gives us an upbeat Mrs Fezziwig alongside a let-down Belle, and Karina Holness, in the role of Lana Sherwood, is a haunting Ghost of Christmas Past and gentle Scrooge’s sister. The remainder of the multitude of roles are shared out between the cast. With the premise that it’s a radio broadcast, they need to find a way to differentiate the characters they are playing, and the cast have managed to come up with a huge variety of accents to give every character their own voice and if some of them are unlikely accents to find their way onto a 1940s US radio broadcast, it matters little and actually adds some quiet amusement.

In between their stints as Christmas Carol characters, the cast is, of course, still playing their roles as 1940s broadcasters, cheery and outgoing and engaging with the audience – and no commercial radio broadcast would be complete without adverts and “a word from our sponsor” which they perform live for us. The commercial for the department store where everything you might want for Christmas is available, complete with easy payment plan, is topped only by the one for the fruitcake (extra-fancy) – a sequence that generates a lot of humour and laughs from the audience.

Performed in the intimate atmosphere of the Old Joint Stock you feel totally engaged and immersed in what’s going on. Watching the effects being produced live behind the action adds to the enjoyment as they work their way through a table laden with all sorts of items, all included for their sound-generating effect.

The running time is quite short – the original Dickens novella is not long – but it’s all great fun and helps to get you into the Christmas spirit.

Runs until 24 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

An engaging take on a festive favourite

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