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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Aganeza Scrooge, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

WHEN Charles Dickens conceived the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, it is unlikely that he had in mind a large woman in a spangly leotard, bejewelled shoulder pads and curly black wig. But in Johnny McKnight's raucous revision of A Christmas Carol, the writer, director and star makes a convincing case for Scrooge as Dame.

As an avaricious money-lender and sole proprietor of Marley & Me, this Aganeza Scrooge has survived the loadsamoney era to become the epitome of bah-humbug misanthropy. Selfish and merciless, she spends much of the show chatting up terrified audience members. Sharp-tongued, waspish and given to ad-libbing, she is also very funny.

This larger-than-life creation inhabits an all-female landscape that's a dizzy amalgam of Victorian London (all mockney accents, decaying teeth and fatal childhood illnesses), modern-day Glasgow (the Ghost of Panto Present is a perfectly realised Jimmy Krankie lookalike) and Strictly-style dance routines ("Get that, Lisa Riley"). If Kenny Miller's baroque black-and-white designs weren't quite so tasteful, you'd call it uncouth.

Where McKnight is a vision of heightened callousness, the others revel in exaggerated pathos. Anita Vettesse's Cratchit contemplates a Christmas dinner featuring a sparrow-sized turkey yet refuses to hear a word against her employer, while Sally Reid's Tiny Tim hobbles around on crutches and sees the good in everything. That's when the two of them, along with Michele Gallagher and Helen McAlpine, aren't doubling as 1980s throwbacks, Sally Bowles-style cabaret singers or 1960s soul queens in their efforts to teach Aganeza her lesson. 

The tongue-twisters, corny jokes and sweet-throwing are about as far from Dickens as you can get, yet so brilliantly does McKnight fuse the contradictory strands – bittersweet social commentary and pugnacious panto – that by the end, when Aganeza finally sees the error of her ways, he strikes a chord of genuinely warming Christmas cheer.
© Mark Fisher, 2012

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