Writer Jack Thorne proves he is the master of magic in this spectacular spin on Dickens’ classic – ★★★★
Thorne’s (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, His Dark Materials) adaptation of A Christmas Carol is one which, rather fittingly, takes its time. This is to its benefit, as The Old Vic’s version in turn feels more hearty and complete than some of its other stagings.
In its latest return to the London theatre, Paterson Joseph (Peep Show) plays the title role, portraying Ebenezar with a balance of a slightly extravagant, Shakespearean tone and razor-sharp seriousness. Just as Scrooge becomes more flexible in his beliefs, Joseph glides perfectly into the many emotions felt by the protagonist in the course of the evening – from love, to bitterness, to pity. While Ebenezar is a closeted individual, it’s easy to connect with him on this extraordinary story of character development.
It’s a journey which isn’t at all rushed in Thorne’s writing and Matthew Warchus’ direction, the just over two hours running time being the perfect length to explore both literal ideas and metaphors. A comment about Scrooge’s keenness to close doors is subtly alluded to with door frames without handles – a standout of Rob Howell’s minimalist set design which suggests that while Ebenezar has shut off a lot of opportunities in his life already, when it comes to profound personal change, the door is always open.
Though at times the play’s exploration of different themes leads to a loss of meaning. Then again, it may well be part of the fun to figure it out. Are the three nanny-like Ghosts a mother figure for Scrooge as a result of having a poor father figure? Is it purely capitalist ideology to blame for his bitter character Similarly, when Ebenezar finally feels festive, it does bask in the Christmas spirit for a fair while – albeit in a wonderfully silly fashion – but it offers a greater sense of closure. As a result, Thorne’s sparkling staging comes full circle in an incredibly satisfying fashion.
A Christmas Carol is now playing at the Old Vic Theatre until 18 January.
Production Images: Manuel Harlan.
Note: I was kindly invited by The Old Vic Theatre to see the captioned performance in exchange for a review of the show and a mention of their new access offer for disabled patrons, if possible. I did not receive payment for this review. All opinions stated are honest and my own.
New refurbishments not only mean the venue is wheelchair accessible, but there are also more toilets available, including ones which are gender-neutral.
Alongside changes to the theatre’s layout, The Old Vic has also introduced an online access scheme, where those who need them can use a tailored system to book aisle seats, wheelchair spaces and front row seats for a performance of their choosing. As a deaf theatregoer, I benefit personally from seats as close to the front as possible, and was able to buy stall seats for a discounted rate when it came to seeing the last production, Lungs. The fact The Old Vic has introduced such a scheme, and is actively promoting it, is so great to see.
You can find out more about The Old Vic’s Access Membership over on their website.