REVIEW: Simon Callow’s A Christmas Carol ★★★★

Charles Dickens‘ beloved classic A Christmas Carol has delighted people of all ages for hundreds of years and has never been out of print. Over the years, there have been countless film and stage versions that bring this story to life.

Simon Callow‘s stage version was critically acclaimed, showing his own interest and knowledge on Dickens, making him ideal person to share it with us. In this recording, he tells us the story of the world’s infamous miser Ebeneezer Scrooge and his journey towards redemption one Christmas Eve. Callow’s instantly recognisable voice encapsulates the story’s narrative and really awakens the imagination.

Each stave is accompanied by festive music and carols, bringing the reality of Christmas into what is, at least to begin with, a very dark work of fiction.

However, to anyone unfamiliar with the story, the recording is quite ambiguous, with little distinction between each character’s voice and often, no gap at all between each piece of dialogue. This makes it tricky in places to identify who is speaking and loses part of the magic, especially if children were listening.

There is more distinction between the spirits, who have echoing tones, but the sense of foreboding from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is lost.

However, nothing can detract from the power of Callow’s voice and the words that Dickens uses to ensnare his reader and completely change his mind towards this, “squeezing, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” into someone “as happy as an angel… as merry as a schoolboy… as giddy as a drunken old man”.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes