Christmas With The Cratchits

Maskers Theatre Company     Maskers Studio, Southampton David A Putley     5 December 2022


Masker’s member Brian Stansbridge has captured the written moment in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Spirit takes Scrooge ( a wonderfully emotional Philip de Grouchy) to the Cratchit household and re-imagined an alternate timeline. What if the Cratchits were in fact more Larkin/Del-boy-esque than the all accepting of their poor lot characters portrayed by the great writer ( Joao Pinto giving a very dignified and warm performance throughout). Jez Minns beautifully casually throwing away the crutch usually associated with Tiny Tim, cleverly giving him more ADHD than a physical deformity, alongside Bandy Smith doing a grand Bradley Walsh protagonist performance against regular character submissive type, provided much initial intrigue and slight confusion (as commented by Jill Desborough’s spritely Ghost of Christmas Present).

All the family are on the make in one shape or form excepting the ever reliable Hazel Burrows bringing her stage presence and engaging dulcet tones to both Mrs Cratchit and subsequent readings (The Inn-Keeper’s Wife was particularly well done): her mirth inducing moment with husband Bob was comedically well timed to perfection.

Molly McDade flushed out a rounded character for Martha Cratchit and her scene with her father regarding the acquisition of the gifts from Mr Sainsbury was well presented. Jane Russell and Maria McDade as Peter and Belinda Cratchit added to the proceedings ably acting the “spoilt” teenagers and coming into their own with enthusiastic readings in the second half.

Taughtly directed by Philip de Grouchy, the assorted readings were well chosen and put together and were not the usual Christmas reading/song fare. I liked the Letter from Egypt, The Ghost Dance, telephone Call to Mother and Just Doing My Job particularly but all performed very well to a high standard. Choral Group The Nightingales provided musical interludes throughout, nicely interpolated into the family scene and a joyful “Night of the Bells” and “Shepherd’s Farewell”.

I always get a warm welcome here at Maskers. With added mince pie and mulled wine this is appealing well thought out entertainment for the time of year: a perfect prelude.