Emma Clarendon went to the Old Vic to catch Jack Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol for the first time – but did she enjoy it?
I have always wondered why the Old Vic have chosen to bring back this production of A Christmas Carol – was it simply because the story is a classic and audiences will continue to flock to see it? Or is it because this production is popular for a reason? Now having caught it for myself – I was completely enthralled with the way in which this production takes the story back to its roots and makes for a perfect ghost story as well as of course being filled with festive cheer at the end.
Adapted by Jack Thorne, this A Christmas Carol is filled with compassion, anger, confrontation and atmosphere that feels faithful to the original story by Charles Dickens whilst highlighting the resonance this story continues to have with audiences and readers.
Delightfully staged, Matthew Warchus’s production surrounds the audience from before the show starts, with free mince pies and oranges being passed out while a group of talented musicians play a range of Christmas songs – setting the scene nicely while ensemble cast members interact with the audience and each other. It is this attention to detail that makes this production so exquisite to watch – even if at times with some of the cast turning their backs to the audience can make it slightly difficult to see everything at all times.
But this aside, there is plenty to be enjoyed – particularly the way in which Jacob Marley makes his ghostly entrance which is suitably chilling, while Hugh Vanstone’s lighting really enhances the ghost story quality of the plot beautifully with as each ghost appears to try and encourage Scrooge to make different choices in his life. Rob Howell’s set really allows all the audience to feel as close as possible to the action as possible – that works well during the festive scene towards the end of the show.
The use of music throughout the show helps to steady the pace of the show which seems go quite quickly particularly during the first act, getting through to the Ghost of Christmas Present much sooner than I was expecting.
But of course, it is the performances that are utterly compelling to watch. Stephen Mangan makes for a brusque and stubborn Scrooge, yet you get a real strong sensibility of how the character came to be so cantankerous and obsessed with money. He doesn’t try and and justify Scrooge’s actions to those he has caused pain to but rather offers a depth and understanding that makes the audience feel compassion for him gradually. Elsewhere, Amanda Hadingue, Rachel John and Rose Shalloo as Little Fran are all suitably eerily haunting as those trying to get Scrooge to confront the wrong he has done. Andrew Langtree is also superbly chilling as Jacob Marley and as Scrooge’s father.
Despite it being an haunting atmospheric production, it is also filled with genuine warmth and feeling that will melt even the hardest of hearts. A magical and memorable evening.
By Emma Clarendon
A Christmas Carol will continue to play at the Old Vic Theatre until the 8th January 2022.