I know, I know, it's not even December and really the C word ought not to be uttered yet, but the opening of the year's production of A Christmas Carol was something that we just couldn't miss. I love this story and the many films that have been made of it (The Muppets version is a guilty pleasure of mine), and I also love seeing it on stage as part of the lead up to Christmas.
I couldn't fault the instructions sent by the Old Vic about entering the theatre; where to queue, having your temperature taken, wearing a mask, and pre-ordering interval drinks via a weblink. All of it worked really smoothly.
Beneath a constellation of warm orange lanterns members of the cast dressed as cheerful Carol singers handed out mince pies to the audience (individually wrapped in paper bags this year). Set in the round we felt invited into this Dickensian scene.
I'd enjoyed previous productions at the Old Vic with Rhys Irfans in 2017 and Paterson Joseph in 2019, so I was really looking forward to seeing what Stephen Mangan made of the role this year. As an actor he always looks on the verge of a smile, so I wondered how he'd deal with Scrooge's mean spirited character in the first part of the play. Gone were the curly locks and brown boyish hair, instead we met a dishevelled grey haired and grey bearded grumpy man. His treatment of Bob Cratchit was as mean and selfish as you'd ever want to see. But he was also able to inspire sympathy for the un-loved boy that he'd once been, and his gradual realisation of the things that he should have cared about but neglected in his pursuit of financial stability/wealth.
Although this is a ghost story, the ghosts in this production aren't especially scary, and it did feel a little rushed in places. For example, we didn't really feel the full joy and fun of the party at Scrooge's nephew's house, and the ghost of Christmas to Come didn't show the empty grave or the scavengers picking over the last of Scrooge's goods. It meant that his conversion seemed quick and perhaps less moving than in other productions.
There is no denying the sheer fun and immersion in the feast being set up at the Cratchits' household. And a bonus experiencing the traditional snow of Christmas. Sitting the stalls meant a lot came down on us!
The show is on until 8th January, so there is still plenty of time to book your tickets.
Running time; 2 hours and 5 minutes including an interval
Prices range from £20 to £67.50.
THE OLD VIC,
THE CUT, LONDON