A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
A well-known tale that many could dismiss as an irrelevant piece of literary history, A Christmas Carol (written by Charles Dickens) has been resurrected at the Old Vic just in time for the festive season. Directed by Matthew Warchus, this is perhaps one of the best retellings of the fabled classic that has ever graced a West End stage. For those unfamiliar with this particular Dickensian work, it tells the story of one Ebenezer Scrooge, whose stingy and ruthless nature earns him a vision of his late business partner who warns him of what is to come and urges him to change his ways. Three ghosts subsequently appear to undertake the task of converting the stoic and stubborn Scrooge before it is too late, and bring back his Christmas joy.
Owen Teale dons the hat of the infamous Scrooge. It’s a role that can be easily disregarded as a cautionary tale for a different age, but Teale manages to surpass all expectations and brings the character to life with great vigour and gusto. The previously apathetic portrayal of Scrooge through modern mediums melts away, and the audience can’t help but feel affection towards this misguided soul.
As much as Scrooge is the focal point of the story, it is important to note that without the characters he interacts with, the audience is unable to get a real sense of the man and the point of the play could easily be missed. However, due to the expert casting of this show, and the fluidity of their interactions on stage, the audience is gifted a frequently seamless world in which the actors are able to tell their story.
Special mention needs to be made of the staging of the show: the audience is very much a part of the set and this allows the performers on stage to break the fourth wall without it erring towards the feel of a pantomime. Audience participation is a must throughout the second half, and, as a result, we are led to feel the same glee that Scrooge eventually does when he understands the true meaning of Christmas. Bursts of jubilation erupt spontaneously as everyone is invited to “partake” in the feast at the end of the show, and it becomes a truly enchanting evening.
Lastly, the music throughout the play is simply magnificent. Beginning with a string section that’s reminiscent of a party with close friends and family, it then ebbed and flowed through ethereal bells to fast-paced jigs. It meant that moments such as the heartbreaking scene with Tiny Tim (Casey-Indigo Blackwood-Lashley), Bob Crachit (Roger Dipper) and Mrs Crachit (Meesha Turner) evoked such emotion in all present that it was difficult to not feeling the swelling sadness of a familial loss. As much as the acting itself is a testament to the calibre of greatness in the show, the music goes further to enhance the performances exhibited by all on stage. This play’s message is one of joy, hope and change: a perfect introduction to the great season of Christmas.
A Christmas Carol is at the Old Vic from 12th November until 7th January 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.