A New Twist On A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic ★★★★★

A New Twist On A Christmas Carol A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic 5

From the mid-air lanterns and the ghostly atmospherics, you could be forgiven for thinking Jack Thorne has scripted ‘Harry Potter and the Ghost of Christmas Past’ but his adaptation of Dickens’ tale fleshes out the backstory to Ebenezer Scrooge with a lost lover and an uncaring father which explains and validates his gruff behaviour towards fellow man.

Coupled with the fact that Rhys Ifans’ fine and detailed interpretation makes him understandable if not always likeable, this centres your attention on the man, rather than the plight of the Cratchit family.  No bad thing, because it makes you think twice about a story you thought you knew, and highlights Ebenezer’s tender and protective relationship with his younger sister Fan, and his first love Belle, very nicely realised performances from Melissa Allen and Erin Doherty.

There’s plenty of Dickensian stovepipe hattery and frock coats, and the elongated thrust stage makes entrances and exits much more processional and dramatic, with a sense of impending doom – even if Marley’s ghost arrives trailing twenty metres of plastic chain and what looks like a toilet cistern.

Director Matthew Warchus embraces the narrative with a near-constant underscore of traditional carols, some wonderfully emphasising the text, either played by Christopher Nightingale’s smashing band, vocalised by the cast, or winningly on handbells by the entire company.  

We wouldn’t want to give away any of the effects that decorate this delicious production particularly when we reach Scrooge’s redemption, let’s just say ‘parachuting sprouts’.  And even though the song’s not in the production, we promise you’ll come out thinking ‘Let It Snow’.

Hugely recommended, before, after or during Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, The Cut, SE1. Until 20 January. £8.50-150.

Last Updated 05 December 2017