A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
Dickens’s classic Yuletide ghost story, A Christmas Carol, is on at the Old Vic in a charming adaptation by Jack Thorne, directed by Matthew Warchus. Presenting an eerie but hugely hopeful and compassionate narrative, this year’s production is dynamic and particularly heartwarming.
In a curious combination of horror, morality tale and Christmas cheer, essential themes of redemption, charity and love encapsulate the genuine spirit of the season, honouring the triumph of humility and forgiveness over meanness and arrogance, and the importance of kindness in the face of malice.
As most of us can remember, for younger viewers the parable can be quite frightening. Victorian children’s yarns contain no shortage of cautionary terror, but Dickens’s is balanced with optimism and good cheer. Not just for youngsters, adults are prompted to view its message as a reminder to reject malevolence and embrace our humanity, and of the significance of family and social empathy.
Steven Tompkinson’s Scrooge is more pensive and human than the two-dimensionally nasty, miserly persona that is usually portrayed. He’s not the typical, evil “bad guy”, but is simply ill-tempered. We see the source of his sour attitude – an abusive father – and his regret as he is prompted to remember the good and decent young man (Jamie Cameron) he used to be. Manifesting the protagonist’s moral lessons and ultimate redemption as supremely painful but inspirational, the actor also includes comedic touches to his performance, which enliven the tone of the play.
Thorne’s exquisite interpretation is very true to the original novel in that it does not deviate from the text, and as such, the cast is exceptional in managing to create true-to-life characters regardless. Among the brilliant performances, Tomkinson is remarkable in the lead role; Nicola Hughes is wonderful as the severe and accusing Ghost of Christmas Present and Myra McFadyen’s Ghost of Christmas Past is terrifically scary. Notable, outstanding direction by Warchus yields a seamless result.
With an elaborate set (Rob Howell), the atmosphere created is immensely evocative. Skilful lighting (Hugh Vanstone) lends a superbly apropos aura with a multitude of gorgeous luminescent Victorian lanterns. Beautiful music includes the enchanting ethereal singing of Christmas carols and the chiming of bells.
Thorne’s piece offers an enormously buoyant message of benevolence and goodwill, a much-needed shot of positive spirit and enlightenment in a turbulent world. Thoroughly entertaining, fun, ebullient, emotionally cathartic and uplifting, A Christmas Carol is a spectacular, joyful show.
Photos: Manuel Harlan
A Christmas Carol is at the Old Vic from 24th November 2018 until 19th January 2019. Book your tickets here.