Manuel Harlan

Charles Dickens’ classic tale returns to The Old Vic for the third year in a row, adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne.

If you’re looking for something to put you in the Christmas spirit, look no further than this. Those familiar with The Old Vic will be amazed at the transformation upon entering the auditorium; it has been converted into a theatre in the round, most of the action unfolding in the stalls while some of the audience has been moved onto the traditional stage. Dozens of twinkling lanterns dangle from the ceiling, musicians are playing, carols are being sung and mince pies are distributed – it’s an utterly festive delight even before the show starts.

The story itself needs little introduction. This production sees Paterson Joseph playing an energetic and charismatic Scrooge, as he is haunted by the memory of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley and subsequently the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come. While the focus is of course on the narrative, we wanted to draw attention to the quality of the music in this production. It’s overflowing with the prettiest of carols, from O Holy Night to the Coventry Carol, all beautifully arranged. There are some gorgeous renditions using handbells, too, while the in-house band is superb throughout.

This is an exceptionally classy production with a lot going for it. Our only gripe is that the tone and pacing of the first act contrasts a bit too sharply with the atmosphere at the start – the joy and excitement we experience on entering the space doesn’t sit well alongside the gloomy and slightly sluggish opening. Things do pick up, however, and everything that occurs after the interval is a total treat.

We’re otherwise struggling to find fault with this show. It tells a classic tale with some solid acting performances and wonderful music, while also brimming with neat production trickery, whether that be the gorgeous lighting or the snow effects. It all comes together to create a wonderfully festive experience – one we’d gladly recommend to anyone seeking a pre-Christmas theatrical treat.

GAY TIMES gives A Christmas Carol – 4/5

More information can be found here.