A Christmas Carol, Bristol Old Vic

SO successful was last season’s production of A Christ­mas Carol at Bristol Old Vic that they decided to bring it back again for 2019/20, with some new music and a substantially new cast.

This time John Hopkins is at its centre, a more vulnerable Ebenezer Scrooge than Felix Hayes’s sonorous curmudgeon last Christmas, and more obviously a man who might be affected by the visions of events in the past, present and future.

The multi-talented Gwyneth Herbert returns as the Spirit of Christmas Present, and she has also written new music and songs for the revival, as well as leading a trio of musicians around the auditorium, all proclaiming their deadness to get the audience into the spirit of the show.

The historic Old Vic is the perfect venue for the story, first performed there in Spring 1844. Dickens, who spent some of his childhood in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison, warned against self-satisfied mean spiritedness and hollow promises. You only have to see the Big Issue sellers outside the theatre door to realise that deprivation and poverty are still with us.

A simple and flexible set puts Scrooge firmly at the centre of the story, as his life flashes before him in one night. The other nine cast members bring to life his sister Little Fan and her husband, his fiancee Belle, his employer Mr Fezziwig and his extravagant wife, his clerk Bob Cratchit and all his family, including the crippled Tiny Tim, his late partner Jacob Marley, his nephew …. and many more. Their helter-skelter appearances put Scrooge’s life into a different perspective, and as the Christmas bells sound, he’s a changed man.

We all know the story, and wish it might happen. BOV artistic director Tom Morris’s adaptation and show director Lee Lyford’s brilliantly inventive staging capture the darkness and the light in Dickens’ most famous work. It’s not a pantomime, but this production calls for the audience to participate in the essence and feel the joy of Christmas at the final curtain.

It is on stage until 12th January.


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