On Sunday evening I saw something quite different: a one man play in a local village hall. I’ll be honest; I did have some reservations before the play started; I have seen and enjoyed local theatre in the past and when done well it’s a joy, but I’ve also had experiences of it being a little cringy and difficult to follow. I had no idea what to expect for this show although I tried to remain open-minded. I must say however, I was completely blown away!
To set the scene: we were in a village hall; there was a basketball court taped onto the floor, the seating was a temporary tiered affair, much more than I had expected from a tiny village hall. The three walls that framed the performing area were shrouded in thick black curtains and three tall, Victorian candle stick holders were positioned on the ‘stage’, supporting small candles which were flickering dimly in the low light.
The lights went down; the packed room fell silent as actor David Mynne came onto the stage. He started miming walking down the street and letting himself into Scrooge’s counting house. For the first few minutes he didn’t speak at all, but he made some very convincing noises as he mimed so it was very easy to imagine what his character was doing. He took off various layers of clothes; a woollen coat and shawl; a hat and a scarf and hung them on the hooks on the candle sticks, and then he started to speak, and he was Scrooge.
I was astonished at how this one man could play every single character so convincingly with the help of just three candle sticks and a few items of clothing. The scarf, when held in profile to the audience became every female character in the story, whilst when held up on his shoulder with its pompom at its end bobbing enthusiastically up and down, it turned into Tiny Tim. A white handkerchief held over a candle created the haunting ghost of Christmas past, whilst the chilling ghost of Christmas yet to come was represented by a black shawl held over his arm and positioned so it slightly blocked his body, allowing the black curtain in the background to show through the gap where the face would be. Mynne retracted a hand from the folds of the shawl, pointing to the imaginary gravestone where the fate of Scrooge was engraved and it was so believable that a shiver ran down my spine. His expressions and demeanour was so true to each character and his script was so accurate that I really think even if you’d never read A Christmas Carol or seen any of the many film adaptations, you would know still exactly what was going on and would come away with an accurate understanding of the story.
I often found myself watching the shadows reflected on the curtains in the background, the silhouettes made it possible to believe that there was a whole host of people making up a full cast and added to the haunting aspects of the story. I actually forgot at times that it was just one man doing the whole thing.
I was impressed at how Mynne stayed in Character for the entirety of the show considering he had to change between characters constantly. It was compelling and very easy to follow, and also extremely immersive. I forgot all about the basketball lines on the floor and the minimal set didn’t need any extra embellishment. I was completely hooked from start to finish. This has been an eye-opening experience into how a fantastic production can be created from virtually nothing. It just goes to show that such stellar acting doesn’t need a massive, complex set, and if the actor is anything like David Mynne who paints such a clear picture of what is happening, the imagination can easily fill in the rest.
If ever you have the chance to see any of this actors one-man shows I would definitely recommend it for an immersive theatre experience that is unlike anything else, and quite extraordinary.