There’s a distinctly festive feeling at the Old Vic. With hundreds of lanterns suspended from the ceiling and a stage that winds through the audience, the chorus of Victorian street singers are (successfully) wooing us with mince pies and satsumas all round. Dickens novella written in 1843 has had such an influence on our expectations of Christmas with cloaked carol singers in the snow-covered streets and frosted windows revealing steaming dinners and rosy faced families, that there really is no better way to kick of the Christmas season.

But of course mean and bitter Scrooge is the unforgettable hero, here played with genuine psychological realism by RSC regular, Paterson Joseph. In this version by Jack Thorne the ghosts too (all women) have distinct characters and even their own ambitions; The ghost of Christmas Present played by Gloria Onitiri wants to be called Dora and the ghost of the Future is Little Fan (Melissa Allan), Ebenezer’s sister who loves him deeply.

Directed by Matthew Warchus, the balance of sentimental festivities, moral messaging and pure silliness is just right. First we see clearly how Scrooge became the man he was, with a terror of debt instilled in him by his unloving father – the real ghost of his past. Then to the strains of In the Bleak Mid Winter (a favourite carol but there are plenty to choose from) the ghosts reveal that Scrooge has blood on his hands – there are human costs and debts accrued in the relentless pursuit of profits. ‘The debts you have accumulated will overwhelm you!’

Once we’ve made it through the darkness of the first half, there is plenty of light to follow. A touching moment from Tiny Tim (played by Rayhaan Kufuor-Gray on press night) moistens the eyes and the final feasting has some theatrical treats in store. Huge strings of sausages and giant trifles are handed through the audience as sheets are suspended from the upper circle to create a slide for the brussel sprouts. And the snow moment! We were covered. Probably 95% adults, all laughing away at our neighbours and ourselves. Finally some comment has to be made of the Bell-ringing, the sort when everyone has a different size hand bell and has to chime their note at the right time to make a tune while smiling broadly. A potentially annoying activity to observe but even a bell-ringing scrooge has to admit it does suit carols and can be funny. It’s all in the timing.

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