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A Christmas Carol


The Old Vic

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the The Old Vic


A Christmas Carol

“The quality and theatricality of this production is unparalleled”

Few pieces of literature have had such a profound impact on how we think of Christmas today as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Has the festive season truly begun unless you’ve read the book, seen a TV adaptation or listened to the Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat tell their version of events? With so many adaptations across different mediums it’s hard to pick favourites, or see in advance what another one might bring to the table.

Enter Matthew Warchus’ production at the Old Vic, now in its fifth year at the venue and with US, Irish and Australian versions on the roster. Having passed the poster for the show many times over the years, I have cynically thought this production would be more about fattening the goose of the Old Vic at a time of thin gruel for theatres. This may well still be true, but there are more joyful reasons I am now sure this show comes back, year after year.

The quality and theatricality of this production is unparalleled. The auditorium of the Old Vic is transformed with a cross-shaped stage to bring the audience in to the action, quite literally, with mince pies and satsumas handed out by ushers and actors before they seem to spontaneously start to perform. Recognisable carols are sung by the cast throughout, elevated by the tinkling of handbells and supported by a string quartet some of whose members occasionally grace the stage to play the fiddle alongside the chorus. It leans in to the best parts of live performance with aplomb – audience interaction, mesmeric set and resonant live sound to fully immerse the audience in Dickens’ Victorian Southwark.

“The final act is full of Christmas magic that will have you gasping in awe”

Eccleston is fearsome as Dickens’ miserly Mr Scrooge, a character whose name and exclamation of ‘Bah Humbug’ have become shorthand for anti-Christmas sentiment. He embodies the tight-fistedness of the role, striding across the stage sweeping his tattered coat behind him and adding a Shakespearean flair to his enunciation. Jack Thorne’s adaptation gives more depth to Scrooge’s backstory, finding the cause of his fastidiousness to finance in the debt-ridden woes of his father and desire to provide for his first love Mr Fezziwig’s daughter, Belle, artfully portrayed by Frances McNamee.

One of the reason’s this 180 year old story is so enduring is its message of hope and charity. Who couldn’t be moved by the Cratchit family? It’s not just Tiny Tim, adorably portrayed by Freddie Merritt as one of four actors on rotation, but the warmth and adoration of Rob Compton as Bob Cratchit for his darling wife despite the meagre mealtime offerings that warms the hearts of the audience and Mr Scrooge. His evolution to a man who “knew how to keep Christmas well” is delightfully uplifting with so much to see and be excited by. The final act is full of Christmas magic that will have you gasping in awe as a result of Rob Howell’s set and costume. Full credit due to the expertise of the full crew for delivering such a thrilling production.

Isn’t a production like this just what we love about Christmas? The ritual. The repetition every year of the same decorations, carols, movies. It allows us to live in a world where nothing has really changed, everything is simple, and there is promise that we can reset and start over again. No matter what there is to come or what has gone before, we are safe in the knowledge that at this time of year we know the next line, and the one after that. No matter if it’s Christopher Eccleston, Michael Caine, or Suranne Jones delivering it. Make this show a Christmas tradition, particularly if you have young children. It converted this Scrooge and will you too.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the The Old Vic

Reviewed on 22nd November 2023

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Manuel Harlan




Previously reviewed at this venue:

Pygmalion | ★★★★ | September 2023

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

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Oklahoma! – 4 Stars



Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage

Reviewed – 30th August 2018


“A hugely talented cast takes us through a story of ‘love conquers all’ covering some stunning musical numbers and delightful dance routines”


It is hard to imagine that a musical set in 1906 and as far removed from 21st century living as you could imagine would still draw an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. Initially brought to the stage seventy five years ago, Oklahoma!, the first musical written by the famed team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is currently being performed at Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre. Set in an American Western/Indian territory and before the formation of the new state of Oklahoma in 1917, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly and the slightly sinister farmhand Jud. 

Upon entering the theatre the audience is greeted with an impressive full stage farmyard set and whilst slammed doors sometimes wobbled the structure, it never detracted from the overall enjoyment of this well known musical. I was particularly impressed with the inclusion of a ‘surrey with a fringe on top’.

A hugely talented cast of twenty two takes us through a story of ‘love conquers all’ covering some stunning musical numbers and delightful dance routines. Fans of musical theatre will be acutely aware of the standout songs from this show. From Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, People Will Say We’re in Love, The Farmer and the Cowman to the rousing finale Oklahoma, each are performed perfectly with meticulous professionalism.

Carrie Sutton (Laurey) has a wonderful singing voice and gave a faultless starring performance. Joshua Gannon (Curly) has a fine range holding his own solos well and together they wonderfully complimented each other. Alice Redmond (Aunt Eller), Connor Ewing (Jud), Lisa Bridge (Ado Annie Carnes), Jeremy Batt (Will Parker) and Joe Leather (Ali Hakim) competently take on the main supporting roles.

Director Catherine Lomax drives the production along well and the evening never misses a beat. The choreography from Khiley Williams is a joy to watch. Special mention must go to Musical Director Rob Scott and the sixteen strong orchestra for performing the music from composer Richard Rodgers with absolute perfection.

Individually and collectively this talented group of performers certainly brings a West End feel to a provincial theatre. It should be noted that the venue is only a twenty minute train journey out of Kings Cross / St Pancras. It certainly is worth visiting!


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Martin Smith



Gordon Craig Theatre until 8th September



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