Performed at Hope Mill Theatre in the run up to Christmas, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit follows the adventures of Timothy Cratchit, a side character in Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol.
Following on from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit explores what happens after Scrooge learns to love Timothy, the boy placed under his ward. In this musical retelling, the relationship between father and son is explored, using the relationship between Timothy and Scrooge as a backdrop against which all of the action occurs.
There are nods to the original work throughout the performance, as well as references to Dickens’ other works. During the Christmas scene where Scrooge and Timothy exchange presents, Scrooge gifts Timothy a copy of Great Expectations, prompting laughter from the audience.
Although the stage at Hope Mill Theatre is small, the lively and chaotic staging of The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit makes it seem huge. Particularly during the opening number, The Miracles of Tomorrow, the stage appeared almost never-ending. This effect was helped by the backdrop of mirrors that surrounded the characters, giving the stage a funhouse-like appearance.
The mirrors helped to highlight the action that was going on onstage, reflecting back the chaos of the stage across all different angles. This allowed the audience to see every aspect of what was going on, sometimes creating an effect similar to an optical illusion, where multiple things seemed to be happening at once.
During times of heightened tension or suspense, the mirrors would become translucent, revealing the characters stood behind them. This worked to create the effect of a veil between the characters behind the mirrors and the characters onstage. At times, this was used to great effect; during Scrooge’s solo, Waiting, a number of phantom-like figures (including the ghost of Marley) were obscured by the mirrors as a reflection of Scrooge’s inner turmoil. However, at times the mirrors being used in this way felt a little unnecessary and made certain scenes confusing to watch.
Surprisingly, Ebenezer Scrooge (Paul Greenwood), himself, was one of the most charming and likeable characters of the play. In line with playwright Allan Knee’s vision of ‘Scrooge’s transformation’, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit managed to take a character notorious for his sour behaviour and make him a loving and relatable father figure to Timothy. Greenwood’s portrayal is magnificent, with just enough hints at Scrooge’s darker character to really emphasise his turn towards the light.
Ryan Kopel was a strong lead in the titular role of Timothy Cratchit. Kopel opened the performance by sneaking in front of the curtain and addressing the audience directly, with enough wit and charm to engage us right off the bat. This sets the tone for the rest of the performance, and although there is no more fourth-wall breaking, the play manages to make the audience feel involved in Timothy’s story throughout.
A refreshing twist on a Christmas classic, the performance is definitely one to see this winter season. With an incredible cast and innovative set design, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit really sets the tone for Christmas with its almost whimsical storytelling and lively musical numbers.