From the moment you enter the Old Vic for A Christmas Carol there's enough festivity to blast away all the bah Humbugs. Cheery-faced carol-singers hand out hot mince pies beneath a constellation of twinkling lanterns, as the in-the-round production invites audience members into a Gothic yet gleeful Dickensian winter.
Jack Thorne, the playwright with the magic touch, re-works A Christmas Carol for an absorbing and atmospheric new show. The oft-adapted novel feels shorter and snappier, without losing the distinctly Victorian exhuberance of Charles Dickens' prose. Director Matthew Warchus maintains a fine balance between comedy and morality, evoking such an iresistible atmosphere that even those (like us) who know the story far too well will be newly entranced.
Artfully-harmonized carols punctuate the story, as a chorus of narrators in top hats and tails introduce the cantankerous Scrooge and his dead business partner, Jacob Marley.
Stephen Tompkinson (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Nicola Hughes (Ghost of Christmas Present) at A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
There's a poignant self-awareness to his Ebenezer Scrooge that makes you pity the scorned man. With his thinning, straggly grey hair and a thread-bare frock coat, he lurks in the counting house, haunted by ghosts of Christmasses past, present and future.
The well-known fable remains a complex portrait of cold-heartedness, that garners plenty of laughs without undermining Scrooge's emotional scars.
After the ghostly decadence of the first-half, Scrooge's redemption is brought to life with a pantomime frenzy. The entire auditorium is engulfed in the excitement as he gathers a feast to share with the Cratchits. It's immersive, silly and totally infectious. But, a bewildered and tentative return to reality in the final moments reminds us that even Christmas miracles require patience, hard work and determination.
It's a fitting message, and one that is likely to leave even 21st century Scrooges with a tear in the eye. Take all the family to remind them that Christmas cheer and goodwill go far deeper than the John Lewis advert.
Recommended for ages 11+
|What||Review: A Christmas Carol, Old Vic Theatre|
|Where||The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
29 Nov 19 – 18 Jan 20, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book now|