A Christmas Carol, the Old Vic review: Bright and joyous, even Scrooges can’t dislike this
Joy to all – including you Scrooges out there – it’s Christmas! We’ve collectively spent weeks ignoring the Christmas cards and wrapping paper that appears pointlessly early in shops, but now that it’s December it’s actually time to start getting in the mood for the festive season – and the best way to do that, bar none, is booking a ticket to A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic.
The theatre has run iterations of this seasonal classic before, but this year it’s back better than ever, offering a barmstorming night at the theatre that’ll convince even the most steadfast Scrooges. There’s a brilliant lead performance by Owen Teale, who wears Scrooge’s emotions on his sleeves like open wounds as he tears from Christmas past to Christmas present and Christmas future.
There’s a touch of Santa about Teale, from his booming voice to the way he gesticulates about the stage. It’s hard to put a fresh stamp on such an overplayed character as Scrooge, but Teale reaches for new life. Staged in-theround, the stage is like a giant cross, with actors running on from four directions. It creates incredible energy, and with over a hundred Victorian-era lanterns twinkling above head, there’s enough atmosphere to stuff some in your bag and sprinkle around your own home to transform your own Christmas naysayers.
There are cute meta moments where Scrooge is reminded about his next scene by other characters
The lanterns dictate the energy in the room too – when Scrooge is confronted by a ghost they shimmer more dramatically, working both within the plot and outside of it as devices. There are also plenty of cute meta moments where Scrooge is reminded about his next scene by other characters for laughs, playing up to the pantomime vibe audiences want at Christmas.
At the end, the whole theatrical element is blown apart and the show turns into a giant piece of audience interaction – complete with parachuting Brussels sprouts landing on the audience as we all got caked in fake snow. The only niggle is that Scrooge’s rebirth from grump to party lover feels a little rushed to make time for all the fun bits at the end – but then again it is Christmas season so I should stop being such a massive Scrooge.
A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic is running until 7 January 2023
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