A Christmas Carol, Old Vic review: Eccleston’s Scrooge has the miser’s touch

A review of Jack Thorne’s A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic: 5 stars *****

This year’s rendition of A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic was brimming with enough Christmas spirit to flood the whole theatre with joy, merriment and seasonal cheer.

Jack Thorne’s adaptation of this classic tale of redemption, compassion and festive humour is truly authentic to the timeless Victorian story.

Dickens himself would have looked down upon the stage with a smile on his face at this spellbinding portrayal of his timeless novella.

This joyous show has it all, the atmosphere created before the show starts was nothing short of Dickensian Christmas personified.

The live band in conjunction with the masterful use of set design on such a small and open stage transported one entirely out of their seat and back into Christmas 1843.

The Company in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, photo by Manuel Harlan

In its seventh year on stage, this particular incarnation is an immersive experience for all, overflowing with traditional carols, Victorian dancing and bell ringing.

Donning Scrooge’s signature robe and top hat, Christopher Eccleston’s performance as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge was sublimely brilliant; each line laced with an undertone of resentment and acrimony. 

The Emmy Award-Winning Doctor Who actor was authentic to Scrooge’s covetous character and gripped the attention of the audience as we accompanied him through his journey of salvation and morality.

Eccleston brought comedic value to his role, having you laugh and cry on your adventure with Scrooge, a touch thoroughly enjoyed by the whole audience.

Christopher Eccleston as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, photo by Manuel Harlan

The in-the-round stage at the Old Vic was adorned with beautiful old-fashioned, iron lanterns which were chained to the ceiling, creating a cosy ambience on stage. 

Rob Howell’s simple, yet effective set design consisted of wooden boxes embellished with the words ‘Scrooge & Marley’s’ and four empty doorframes which independently rose from the stage floor with the imposing clunk of Victorian machinery. 

The Company in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, photo by Manuel Harlan

The use of ensemble storytelling throughout the production was remarkable and seemingly hypnotic.

At one moment it gave the sense that one was actually walking down the streets of Victorian London on Christmas Eve.

The next, the overwhelming feeling of chilling anticipation as the ensemble transformed into a faceless spectre that guided Scrooge through visions of Christmases to come. 

The entire cast delivered stellar performances, bringing Dickensian charm and wit to life effortlessly.

From the Ghost of Christmas Present to Mr Fezziwig, each individual played a deeply moving and intelligent role, and did so with immense talent. 

The Company in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, photo by Manuel Harlan

Alexander Joseph’s performance as Tiny Tim (one of four actors who play the role) was particularly endearing.

Tim’s role, as the foil of Scrooge and archetype of compassion and empathy ensured that, by the final curtain call, there was not a dry eye in the house.

Whilst speaking to the wonderful cast member Rose Shalloo before the show, she told me: “I hope and I’m sure the audience will feel extremely Christmassy and full of joy!”

Shalloo played Little Fan, Scrooge’s younger sister, who revisited Scrooge from the grave in this chilling adaptation.

Her performance was believable as the young naïve girl who misunderstood the troubles of the world and just wished her brother home for Christmas. 

Christopher Eccleston as Ebenezer Scrooge and Rose Shalloo as Little Fan in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, photo by Manuel Harlan

She added: “It’s also such a moving version and there are so many elements to this show that make it so wonderful and that’s why audiences keep coming back every year. 

“I’m thrilled to be part of it again.”

If anyone is able to watch this show and not leave feeling the warmth of hope and Christmas cheer, then suffice it to say they too deserve a visit from Mr Jacob Marley.

Featured image by Manuel Harlan – Christopher Eccleston as Ebenezer Scrooge and Andrew Langtree as Marley in in A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic

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