"New story in old clothes"
by Ben Macnair for remotegoat on 23/12/17

It is Chrismas Eve, and the local gathering of the Ghost club has joined Charles Dickens for an evening of chilling entertainment. After the travails of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and those pesky three spirits, Charles Dickens needs another story that is its equal with as much pathos, humanity, comedy and pure dread that his previous tale engendered.

So as the audience settles down, we are told another story, about Jeremiah Flyte and the devilishly charming Mr Hobsbawm. In the pub, Flyte is sat, reading his paper, when Mr Hobsbawm disturbs his reverie, and gets him thinking about what he would change about his life. His marriage to Clara is comfortable, but stale, the magic has gone from it. Soon Flyte finds himself as a young man, in love with his previous girlfriend, and Clara is a mere acquaintance. As he settles into a new life with a new bride, and twenty years ahead of him, he learns of Clara’s death, of heatbreak and yearning for him. Her death leaves him with guilt and melancholia, and the death of his wife in his alternative reality. Soon, he is back at the pub with Mr Hobsbawm.

He is asked what else he would change about his life, and relives an alternative career as a photographer, but even here the tale takes a macabre twist, photographing the newly deceased, until Flyte finds himself in one of the coffins. As a last part of the story, he decides what would happen if he had abstained from drink. In the final scene, he decides that his life is a good one, and that his marriage and his work need more from him than he has been giving.

The Coffin Works was a suitably cold and eerie setting for this original piece, that had the right amount of Dickensian borrowings, and originality to sustain the tale. As Dickens Jonathan Goodwin was suitably grandiose, and the sounds that ranged from a broken, atonal Christmas carol playing Music box, to bangs, whimpers and pub noises add atmosphere to a piece that was another fine addition to Don’t Go into the Cellar’s already full book of quality productions.

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