A Christmas Carol – As Told By Jacob Marley (Deceased), Hyland’s award-winning one-man show delivers, in a masterful storytelling style, the age-old tale of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In this innovative retelling, it is the voice of Jacob Marley – the deceased business partner of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge – that rings out on stage, narrating, with a lurid familiarity and leering glares, the most classic supernatural ghost story of this festive season.
The tale itself traces the experiences of Mr Scrooge on Christmas Eve, rejecting festive celebrations and turning his back on deeds of goodwill with a bitter, resounding “Bah Humbug!”. During the night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Marley, who proceeds to warn him that, if his miserly ways remain unchanged, he will see – with guidance from three more ghostly figures – that the future will become only more dark and cruel than the present.
Throughout the production, Hyland’s stage presence is undeniable. The Tara Theatre space is small, cramped and brilliant for intensifying the dramatic performance that Hyland gives. His fine narrative style is rooted somewhere between monologue and mimicry, where the subtleties of each separate adult, child and ghost blend and blur perfectly through the motions of Hyland’s body and voice. Each persona is distinct: a flick of the finger, a turn of the head – the alteration of tone and changes in movement are so seamless, Hyland becomes almost mesmerising, enveloping the audience in the tale as much through his acting as the narrative itself.
A Christmas Carol – As Told By Jacob Marley (Deceased) is a production which enthrals at every point. Dickens’s Christmas classic is brought quite literally to life by Hyland, whose ghostly appearance, with costume designed by Nicki Martin-Harper, is but one element of the production that instantly unsettles and unnerves the audience. Hyland creates an environment that is chilling at all times; the odd nervous laugh arises from the audience, to be left hanging in the intense and concentrated air.
The production’s final moments prove a harrowing reminder that Marley’s fate remains unchanged. The cruel, unforgiving chains that so evidently pain him are eternal. Hyland’s last words, wishing the audience a “Merry Christmas”, evoke not warmth but a shudder; his pains, his chain and his voice are the last sounds to be heard echoing through the space. The deceased and oft forgotten Jacob Marley has never before been so alive.
A Christmas Carol – As Told By Jacob Marley (Deceased) played at the Tara Theatre. For more information and tickets please see the Tara Arts website.