Of all of the productions of A Christmas Carol that there are to choose from at this time of year, this production by European Arts Company starring John O’Connor might be the most simple. But that’s not to say that it is any less enjoyable than the big productions that you can see elsewhere. On the contrary, this one-man performance – a retelling of A Christmas Carol in the style of how it would have first been performed by Charles Dickens himself – brings in elements of the original story that would normally be lost in other adaptations.
O’Connor has almost no props, no costume changes, just some projections, lighting changes and sound effects. But he manages to completely captivate the audience. It takes some adjustment at first, it’s difficult to keep up with the complicated, elaborate descriptions from the novel. The arrival of the first ghost also seems very different and unexpected, missing most of the spooky effects that we’ve come to expect. But it soon becomes obvious that O’Connor does not need props or costume changes. His voice and body language is all he needs to distinguish all of the various characters and engage the audience in the story. His performance adds emotion and meaning to every line, exaggerating the more ridiculous characters and making the audience feel genuinely sympathetic towards the others.
He uses only the original text of A Christmas Carol so at times the language and humour can feel a bit old-fashioned, especially at first, but this all adds to the effect of a performance by Charles Dickens himself. All of the famous lines that you expect in a Christmas Carol make an appearance, as well as lines from the novel that you wouldn’t normally hear in a staged performance. It is amazing that he keeps up the energy and tone throughout the whole performance despite the complicated language and the absence of other actors on stage.
In bringing this work back to its origins, European Arts Company and John O’Connor have produced a refreshing and authentic version of a Christmas Carol. O’Connor does an excellent job of portraying Dickens and of immersing and engaging the audience in this well-known story.