The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A Christmas Carol, The Vaults

This classy but more adult interpretation of the classic feels inspired but not as slick as works such as Peter Pan Goes Wrong. There is a farce but it is short running time means that it lacks the momentum to get the audience going and would have perhaps worked better as a sketch rather than full production.

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour team have been displaced by an accident concerning their director, producer and actor playing Scrooge Stanley De Pfeffel (Michael Lumsden) at the Old Vic. As a result, the troupe, now lead by Ernest Andrew (Samuel Collings) have to move to a railway morgue, cleverly making light of the- at times -distracting train noises that occur in The Vault.

tn-500_a_christmas_carol_8362The troupe is formed of Vanity Fair (Alix Dunsmore), Gretchen Haggard (Dorothea Myer-Benner) and Beau Belles (William Findlay). The adaptation of A Christmas Carol feels like a speeded up version but with many adaptations across London everyone knows the story, the issue is can the Fitzrovia Radio Hour make this a classic production.

Sadly, for me, the answer is no. As an adaptation, all the Christmas spirit seems to have been sucked out of it. It has interesting aspects such as the live sound effects by the actors but the background story of Andrew wanting to usurp De Pfeffel wasn’t charming or funny enough. In a world where Mischief Theatre Company reigns supreme, any farce seems like a poor knock off and crucially the time and space available mean any slips and falls just do seem as slick and skilled. I wasn’t convinced by the spoof of 1940s radio either and it seemed, with its sponsorship of Rathbone’s gin, to be more of an American spoof than anything wartime/post-war Britain would have put on the BBC Home Service.

I did enjoy the performances from Collings, who played Scrooge as if he were Kenneth Williams and Alix Dunmore, who did some great improve to two audience latecomers and was perhaps the highlight of the night. I felt Findley, who now playing Andrew’s characters as well as his own has to do a two-hander between a Yorkshire and Welsh (which is more Pakistani)  and Myer-Bennett’s Gretchen who works out what really happened to De Pfeffel and adapts the production accordingly, had strong performances but weren’t really given much to do and that the third act was spoilt by the arrival of Lumsden, who seemed to give a weak and dull performance that spoiled the flow of the story and perhaps the story would have flowed better if De Pfeffel’s character had never appeared.

All in all, it is an adaptation which never quite meets in potential, both in its humour and the story it is telling.


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