Tag Archives: The Old Vic

A Christmas Carol

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

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Reviewers’ Round-up

When not out reviewing for us, our team attend many more shows which they’d love to tell you about. Take a look at what they’ve been seeing recently

November 2019

THE LARAMIE PROJECT | ★★★★ | RADA GBS Theatre until 30th November 2019 | Seen by Ethan Doyle
The Laramie Project
An interrogative and harrowing verbatim piece on a despicable homophobic murder that explores the attitudes of the town in which it occurred with frankness, intimacy, and hope. The performances are sublime in their service of the text and there are some truly striking visual moments too. Just make sure to bring tissues – you will cry.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN | ★★★★  Noël Coward Theatre until 30th May 2020 | Seen by Flora Doble | Photo by Matthew Murphy
Dear Evan Hansen
The hotly-anticipated Broadway transfer of Dear Evan Hansen has finally arrived at the Noël Coward Theatre in London. Exploring mental health, suicide and the social media abyss, Dear Evan Hansen is a groundbreaking and powerful piece of theatre that will hopefully help facilitate important conversations about depression, anxiety and youth suicide.
THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE  | ★★★★★ | Bridge Theatre until 2nd February 2020 | Seen by Katre | Photo by Brinkhoff Moegenburg


A beautiful, magical production with superb puppets and an amazing multi-talented cast. A really special show..
SOLARIS  | ★★★★ | Lyric Hammersmith until 2nd November 2019 | Seen by Dominica Plummer | Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic


A lyrical, thought provoking, but somewhat disappointing adaptation by David Greig, of Stanisław Lem’s classic science fiction novel. In the eerie presence of the sentient planet Solaris, an orbiting space station sent from Earth experiences the inexplicable. Greig updates this unforgettable story by adding a female protagonist to a crew trying to avoid madness a long way from home and from those they have left behind. Or have they? Enjoyed for superlative performances and a memorable set design that alternates between the bright clean lines of the space station and the moody seascapes of the planet below.
LUNGS  | ★★★★★ | The Old Vic until 9th November 2019 | Seen by Dominica Plummer | Photo by Helen Maybanks


The Old Vic’s revival of Duncan Macmillan’s eco love story reunites Claire Foy and Matt Smith in a seamless two hander about a couple considering parenthood in a world on the brink of climate change. Macmillan’s script holds up well and Foy and Smith recreate the onstage chemistry that ups the stakes in this timely drama. It was a treat to see the traditional Old Vic create an intimate theatre in round so that everyone in the audience could feel that much closer to this conflicted couple and their story.
SHOOK | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse until 23rd November 2019 | Seen by Dominica Plummer | Photo by The Other Richard


Samuel Bailey’s Papatango prizewinning play is performed to great effect in a gritty, naturalistic setting about three young offenders who are also parents. Bailey’s play is an absolute gift to powerhouse performers like Josh Finan, Ivan Oyik and Josef Davies, with good support from Andrea Hall playing their empathetic teacher. Bailey’s tale may lack a satisfying denouement in this memorable portrait of prison life, but his talent for dialogue and characterisation will ensure him a devoted following for whatever he chooses to write next.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN | ★★★★ | Piccadilly Theatre until 4th January 2020 | Seen by Rebecca Crankshaw | Photo by Brinkhoff Moegenburg


Sharon D Clarke and Wendell Pierce give powerhouse performances in Arthur Miller’s classic drama.
GHOST QUARTET | ★★★★ | Boulevard Theatre until 4th January 2020 | Seen by Jonathan Evans | Photo by Marc Brenner

Ghost Quartet

An intoxicating, bizarre and sometimes baffling musical. The narrative threads weave themselves into knots, but the gorgeous score of this song cycle lines the show with magic. Magic that is matched by this impressive new venue in the heart of Soho.
ON BEAR RIDGE | ★★★★ | Royal Court until 23rd November 2019 | Seen by Jonathan Evans | Photo by Mark Douet

On Bear Ridge

Riveting, off-beat theatre that takes you to another place. Surreally dark, shone through with stunning performances. 
MARY POPPINS | Preview Performance | Prince Edward Theatre until 7th June 2020 | Seen by Chief Spy | Photo by Mark Douet

Mary Poppins

The all time classic returns with its incredible score, magnificent staging and an outstanding cast including the legendary Petula Clark. You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN | Preview Performance | Noël Coward Theatre until 30th May 2020 | Seen by Chief Spy | Photo by Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen

The winner of six Tony Awards finally arrives in the West End and the wait has definitely been worth it. Steven Levenson’s book combined with Pasek & Paul’s outstanding score make this the show to see. This performance had Marcus Harman in the lead role proving he’s an exceptional alternate Evan.
A WOMAN ON NO IMPORTANCE | ★★★★  | Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until 2nd November 2019 | Seen by David Woodward


“The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable” just one of many typically Walden witticisms that sparkled like fireworks at this performance. Perhaps no surprise that it’s deeply sympathetic to the eponymous character, well-played by Liza Goddard. There’s a hint of grimly controlled madness about her performance, with her off-kilter stance and dress, with some real poetry in her speeches. To the audience’s satisfaction, she turns the tables on her nemesis. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole. Roy Hudd and Isla Blair also appear in this witty and thought provoking show.





Click here to see our most recent reviews