A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
The Old Vic’s production of A Christmas Carol seems designed, above all, to awaken joy and merriment. From the very first moment that the audience steps in to take their seats, they will find themselves immersed in a Victorian atmosphere where street vendors are offering mince pies and fruit, and a bunch of warmly lit lanterns cascade above the stage.
It is almost Christmas, and the cynical, coldhearted Ebenezer Scrooge (Stephen Mangan) has recently lost his business partner, Marley. Annoyed by the festivities, he mistreats his clerk, shoos away carol singers and declines his nephew’s invitation to dine together. Later that night, he is dismayed by the ghostly apparition of Marley’s spirit. In spite of his remonstrations, he is taken on an introspective journey. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes him to his youth, where he revisits the disappointments that shaped his character. The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to him the consequences that his actions may have already set into motion. Finally, he is presented with a future scenario of what could await him. Shaken by what he sees, Scrooge reexamines his entire existence.
The play’s darker moments give way, in the final act, to an explosion of cheer and merrymaking. Traditional Christmas carols and bell ringing compositions contribute to create a charming atmosphere. The large space is used to good effect, with the stage extending into a walkway and the audience surrounded by the action on all sides as they sit on various different levels. This setup allows for entertaining and spectacular ploys, although it somewhat disperses the action and limits the possibility of accessing a more intimate tone.
The play is visually and technically outstanding, but the emotional dimension is not as well developed. Scrooge undergoes a very intense psychological experience, but this is merely witnessed rather than felt by the audience. While the story is presented beautifully, the focus remains on the surface layers without really digging into the moving elements at its core. Overall, however, it is a truly magical experience that catapults the audience right into the festive spirit, and it will make for an ideal Christmas treat for the whole family.
A Christmas Carol is at the Old Vic from 13th November until 8th January 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.