MALTON market knows how to market itself. The title of Yorkshire’s Food Capital may be self-anointed, under the bold visions of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, but it can pack a punch as much as a lunch in any culinary quest.
Likewise, Malton knows how to maximise – let’s resist the foodie word ‘milk’ here – its links with Charles Dickens, who would perform at the old theatre on his reading tours.
A plaque in Chancery Lane is all that remains of the now closed Scrooge and Marley Counting House/Dickens Museum, long said to be the inspiration for Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol, no less.
Those premises were the offices of Dickens’s great friend, lawyer, Charles Smithson, whose wife received an 1844 signed copy of Dickens’s novel on Smithson’s untimely death at 39. What’s more, various characters in Dickens’s stories were based on Malton residents, apparently.
The Malton Dickensian Festival has delighted audiences, especially with Miriam Margolyes’s hugely enthusiastic celebrated readings. Now comes Be Amazing Arts’ Dickensian enterprise, part of the Malton company’s mission to “tell stories, provide creative opportunities and inspire the next generation of performers”.
Produced by James Aconley, overseen by operations director Natalie Aconley, and adapted by Roxanna Klimaszewska – a name familiar to York audiences from her work with Six Lips Theatre – this immersive promenade production of A Christmas Carol enjoyed its sold-out debut run on Malton’s streets last winter.
If at first you succeed, then of course you should bring it back, with the enticement of “an adapted script, more unexpected stops and Be Amazing’s unearthing of more and more connections between Dickens and the town”.
Sure enough, ticket demand has been just as high this season, the freezing temperatures adding to the atmosphere generated by the story’s ghostly chill, but coupled ultimately with a warmth inside as reviving as the (non-alcoholic) mulled wine served part-way round.
Aptly, the promenade performance starts at Kemps Books, where Quinn Richards’s elegantly dressed Charles Dickens engages in a conversation with fellow professional actor James Rotchell’s Charles Smithson, excitedly informing him of his latest writing venture, A Christmas Carol.
Whereupon he begins to tell the story, subsequently shifting between upright, engaging narrator/promenade guide Dickens and the stooped, winter-bitter Ebenezer Scrooge.
Rotchell, in turn, switches from ever-supportive Smithson to put-upon office clerk Bob Cratchit and a chain-clad Jacob Marley in the first of the empty Market Place premises taken over for the production run, as children’s fingers tap spookily on the windows.
Rotchell adds generous host Fezziwig to his repertoire, his multi-role playing matched by third professional cast member Kirsty Wolff’s Ghost of Christmas Present, Mrs Cratchit and Clara.
They are joined by members of Be Amazing’s Young Company, who add so much to the scenes both on the streets and inside, from serving the drinks to playing a multitude of characters with such relish, led by Kelly Appleby’s Belle, Erin Warren’s lit-up Ghost of Christmas Past and Torin Pope’s Fred on the night attended by CharlesHutchPress.
The promenade takes in an empty shop, festive nibbles in the company of the Cratchits at The Cook’s Place cookery school in Market Street and a scene outside St Michael’s Church, where Tiny Tim Cratchit and Scrooge’s forewarning gravestones are placed.
James Aconley promised “something a bit different but also very festive and magical”. Tick, tick and tick, how right he is. Tick tock too, as the loud sound of a clock in the street accompanies Scrooge’s race against time to change from dark to enlightened by Christmas Day morning.
Played out against the backdrop of a winter of discontent, distress, division and dissent, this imaginative, bracing, haunting yet uplifting production is a winning combination of A Christmas Carol and Malton as you have never seen them before (unless you were there last year of course!). A return next year must be on the cards.
Be Amazing Arts in A Christmas Carol, Malton Market Place, December 21, 23 and 24, 7pm. Box office to check ticket availability: 01653 917271 or beamazingarts.co.uk.
Cast list for the night CharlesHutchPress attended:
Quinn Richards: Charles Dickens/Ebenezer Scrooge
James Rotchell: Charles Smithson/Jacob Marley/Fezziwig/Bob Cratchit
Kirsty Wolff: Ghost of Christmas Present/Mrs Cratchit/Clara
Kelly Appleby: Belle/Various roles
Erin Warren: Ghost of Christmas Past/Various roles
Dominic Walker: Young Cratchit/Boy/Beggar/Carol Singer
Flynn Coultous: Young Scrooge/Husband
Beth Wright: Woman 1/Belinda Cratchit/Gent 1
Lucy Kerr: Woman 2/Martha Cratchit
Jessica Middlewood: Fanny/Young Lady/Young Cratchit/Laundress
Torin Pope: Fred/Suit 1
Charlie Kerr: Gentleman 1/Topper/Suit 2
Celia Brass: Young Cratchit
Noah Samuel: Young Cratchit
Elliot Samuel: Young Cratchit
Jeremy Walker: Tiny Tim