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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Old Vic's A Christmas Carol (Comedy Theatre) - 125 minutes, plus interval

The story of Scrooge who was “helped” to discover the true meaning of Christmas by ghosts may be familiar to most, but Old Vic’s production is both delightful and surprising.

Conceived and directed by Matthew Warchus, Jack Thorne has reimagined the Charles Dickens’ classic tale to mesmerising effect.

Photos by Jeff Busby

As we are led to our seats at the Comedy Theatre, we are immediately enchanted by what might best be described as a beautiful and detailed art installation.

In fact, it is literally hundreds of old-style glowing lanterns hanging from the ceiling at different heights, creating a most favourable first impression.

Before the play with music officially starts, we are welcomed by actors in Victorian costume freely distributing mince pies and mandarins.

Black top hats and long black coats are the staples as a quartet provides spirited musical accompaniment.

It is a convivial environment, which quickly turns to bah and humbug when Scrooge enters the fray.

A Christmas Carol is a marvellous and magical production, which introduces us to the miserly workaholic Ebenezer Scrooge (David Wenham), who is superb in the lead.

Wenham's in-character, demonstrative, fits of pique illustrate what a master of his craft he is.

Scrooge slams the door on choristers, gives short shrift to his nephew Fred (Andrew Coshan) and implores his good-natured employee Bob Cratchit (Bernard Curry) to keep working long past dark on Christmas Eve.

It is while pouring over his books and counting his money that he is visited by the ghost of his dead partner Marley (Anthony Harkin).

Marley informs Ebenezer that further apparitions – the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Debra Lawrence), Present (Samantha Morley) and Future (Emily Nkomo) – are on the way.

It is through them that the story continues.

Scrooge is reintroduced to his young, enthusiastic self (Cameron Bajraktarevic-Hayward), his beloved, deceased sister Little Fan (Emily Nkomo), their mean spirited father (Anthony Harkin) and the love of his life, Belle (Sarah Morrison).

The tone shifts markedly in the second act as the previously obstinate and unsympathetic Scrooge has a change of heart.

Subsequently, shrieks of laughter ring out amongst the patrons, but to say any more would be to compromise others’ enjoyment and I am not about to do that.

As talented as the cast is and as ear pleasing the music, what also makes Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol so special is the staging, costuming, sound and lighting.

I have already referenced the lanterns. Also particularly noteworthy is the outline of four door frames, which appear and disappear electronically and mark the parameters of Scrooge’s office.

As the door is figuratively closed or bolted shut, it is marked by heightened sound effects.

The Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol is the complete package. It ticks all the boxes for a family treat that is poised, polished and, ultimately, heaps of fun.

It is playing at the Comedy Theatre until 29th December, 2022.


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