This timeless classic receives an immersive interpretation: atmospheric and moving…
By Suman Bhuchar
IN THEATRE land parlance, ‘A Christmas Carol’, at the Old Vic in London, is a show that keeps on giving and this is the sixth consecutive year that this show has been entertaining and moving audiences in equal measure.
This year it’s the turn of actor, Owen Teale to play Ebenezer Scrooge, the skinflint loan shark who undergoes a transformation by getting a chance to re-evaluate his life and start over.
Teale is a moving performer and director, Matthew Warchus’ energetic and atmospheric production is great to watch.
Staged in a traverse form shaped like a cross, the style is bleak Victorian austerity, wood, Dickensian frock coats, top hats, and Teale’s costume is black with lots of red. The entire auditorium is populated with lanterns, and we are transported to the past.
With music by composer Christopher Nightingale, carol singing and bell ringing by the actors, and the lighting by Hugh Vanstone – all add to the visual and immersive atmosphere of the show.
Adapted by writer, Jack Thorne, this is the Scrooge story with Teale on stage all the time and not a single ‘Bah Humbug’ in sight.
This Scrooge is a closed man, who and doesn’t get it when his nephew, Fred, (Dominic Sibanda), his late sister Fan’s son, is being nice to him.
Soon he is visited by his former dead business partner Jacob Marley in chains who tells him about the three spirits who are coming to see him. The Ghosts are all played by female actors with prams that grow larger and larger – who take him on a time travel tour.
Ghost of Christmas Past (Julie Jupp) takes him back to his school, “the solitary child you have forgotten”. She reminds him about how his father’s cruelty changed his destiny. He was put to work at Mr Fezziwig’s funeral parlour where he met and fell in love with Jess (Merryl Ansah), who waited for him while he went off and made his wealth, so he could be worthy of her. He gets a whistle stop tour of how he has become the man he is and when the Ghost of Christmas Present (Jenny Fitzpatrick) arrives he says: “I have nothing to learn from the present!”
But he does get an insight into how he treats his relatives and employee Bob Cratchit (Roger Dipper) – asking him to do long errands, not letting him get home in time to see his ailing and delightful son, Tiny Tim.
For the Future, he gets an insight into his own death and people bickering over his wealth and how bleak life would really be if he didn’t change his habits.
The ensemble company play a range of characters from their named parts to carol singers, to dancers, to town criers and at the end the whole audience end up being guests at the Cratchit’s Christmas lunch which Scrooge orchestrates. The audience are invited to help with the feas,t with Brussel sprouts falling from the ceiling, while a gigantic turkey comes down in a pulley and there is even snow!
This is a really enjoyable show and grab a ticket if you can or book it for next year.
Dickens wrote this as a reminder to people about austerity and Old Vic is collecting donations via bucket an online donations during the show’s run for City Harvest London, an organisation that delivers surplus food to families.
ACV rating: ***** (five out of five)
All pictures: © Manuel Harlan
‘A Christmas Carol’ adaptation by Jack Thorne, The Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB
More info/tickets: https://www.oldvictheatre.com/stage/event/a-christmas-carol-1
Suitable for ages eight plus
Two hours running show time