Christmas Review



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Brother Wolf presents

A Christmas Carol



As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)


Adapted from Dickens’ classic short novel and performed by James Hyland


Directed by Hugh Allison


Costumes and makeup by Nicki Martin-Harper


Original music by Chris Warner


The Hob


December 8, 9 and 13

Other London touring dates listed below








ary Couzens

A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Jacob Marley pleads: “Remember what has passed between us this night.”  No need to plead, Mr. Marley, there’s no danger I’ll forget.

In A Christmas Carol, As told by Jacob Marley (Deceased)—James Hyland’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale of three ghosts scaring the humbug out of Ebenezer Scrooge—Hyland tells the famous miser’s story with astonishing dynamism in palpable, eerie earnest.

From the moment Hyland takes the stage in all Marley’s ghostly glory and begins to remove his chains, which are excruciating for him to touch, you sense that you’re in for more than a Dad-at-Christmas telling of Dickens’ tale. 

The adaptation is a spare cutting that moves swiftly, like shadows darting from dark corner to dark corner.  Hyland makes the familiar tale rattle and shake with vitality in Scrooge’s dusty rooms, never giving the story or the curmudgeon time to languish.

Scrooge’s late partner embodies all the characters as a master storyteller.  Hyland’s Marley assumes Dickens’ narrative voice, which leaves a lot of passages from the original largely unchanged.  While the adaptation doesn’t revolutionise the text as much as one might expect, Marley’s plight does cast a poignant light on the story, reminding us of those without Scrooge’s second chance.

It’s Hyland’s performance that revolutionises the tale.  Accomplished and intense, Hyland radiates a strange benevolence through what should be the cold, colourless eyes of death (courtesy of novelty contact lenses).  This is no mean feat.  To say to yourself ‘nothing puts the warmth of the season in your heart like the disquieting stare of a ghost’ and mean it reveals the nuance of Highland’s knack.

Clearly the considerable charm of the evening owes itself to Hyland’s astonishing acting agility.  You’d likely guess that there’s a room his acting has filled with awards somewhere if you didn’t already know Hyland is a distinguished stage and screen veteran.  He builds rooms around his characters in the imagination of his audience with the jab of a needle into an invisible pincushion or the shaking of his balking hand as it fails to lift the shroud from a corpse.

Hyland paints the extraordinary detail of his imagination for his audience’s mind’s eye.  He conjures a motley crew of living, breathing Dickensian Londoners, complete with their own accents, postures and quirks.  His performance is a lively embrace of the actor as storyteller.

Director Hugh Allison turns Hyland loose with only one chair, his chains and a key to achieve Dickens’ intended journey to a renewed belief in redemption.  Some of the sideward-looking staging left me wanting to see Marley’s face a bit more, but added to the sense that Hyland’s characters were in a real space. 

Nicki Martin-Harper’s costuming and make-up artistry make Marley into an otherworldly walking set piece.  The silvery glow of phantasm mingles with the earthy traces of burial on Marley’s face and clothes.  Chris Warner creates the atmosphere of a thick fog in his sound design. 

The show is great for families, but I have to give a disclaimer.  With Hyland’s powerful voice and striking appearance, parents may do well to give their children’s hands a loving squeeze or two at particularly supernatural moments.

Seeing Hyland’s A Christmas Carol is a fantastic way to re-experience Dickens’ tale and remember why the author wrote it.  Hyland’s performances at The Hob are charity events in aid of St. Martin’s, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Care for the Wild. 

I half-expected a cheesy, tacky or tired telling of Scrooge’s perennially butchered story as I abandoned the determined confusion of London Bridge Station for the subdued suburban loll of Forest Hill.  Hyland rewarded my (rare) venture outside the Underground network with a vibrant re-imagination of the classic. 

Luckily for Londoners, the show will be within the tendrils of the Tube map in the coming weeks.

Hyland and company do what Christmas itself does: they make an old tale new.  You’ll experience the classic in a haunting new way.  Hyland will leave you with the tale’s familiar message of renewed hope as Marley’s chains rattle the story to an end. 


The Hob
December 8, 9, 13, 8:00 pm
Tickets £3 at the door


The White Bear Theatre
December 19, 3:00 pm
Tickets £8
Box office:  020 7793 9193


The Cockpit Theatre
December 22, 23, 8:00 pm
Tickets £8
Reservations: 020 7258 2925


Dickensian Twelfth Night Feast at The Space
January 7, 7:30 pm
Tickets £35
Box office:  020 7515 7799







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