Photo: Manuel Harlan

We’re fans of The Old Vic’s staging of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – we originally caught Jack Thorne’s production back in 2019 (although it had already played for a couple of runs previously) and we’re glad to have it back this festive season. It gives us everything we want from a Christmas show – a heartwarming tale, carols, bells, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to snaffle a mince pie from one of the actors before the show starts. It’s performed in the round and lit by dozens of lanterns hanging overhead – it all adds up to a rather special and wonderfully festive evening.

This year the role of Scrooge is performed by Game of Thrones star Owen Teale. His loud, brash performance is not the most nuanced we’ve seen, but works well enough and includes a surprisingly emotional reunion with a former flame. There’s some artistic licence used with his back story, although the key elements from Dickens’ text are all present and correct. In terms of the other performances we were particularly taken with Melissa Allan in the role of Scrooge’s sister Little Fan and we were also impressed with Lydia White as former love interest Belle.

Dickens was, of course, a master of social commentary and the story here resonates just as much as it would have done in Victorian England; the plight of the Cratchit family is immediately recognisable in the midst of our current cost of living crisis. There’s a gentle reminder as we leave the auditorium that this is a problem that hasn’t gone away – there’s a collection for City Harvest, a charity which redistributes food that would otherwise be going to waste, helping to support those at risk of going hungry this Christmas.

While there’s clearly a serious message at its heart, this production of A Christmas Carol is also a heartwarming evening full of festive cheer – something which is much-needed in the midst of current uncertainty and following a couple of very difficult years. It’s a pacy, stylish and slick two-hour run through of the highlights of the original story. There’s something rather comforting and reassuring about having this much-loved production back – if you’re looking for a little sprinkling of Christmas magic to get you in the festive spirit, this is the show for you.

GAY TIMES gives A Christmas Carol – 4/5

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