The first time Bristol Old Vic staged A Christmas Carol was in 1844, just months after Dickens wrote the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from a miserly old man to a generous and happy gent.
174 years on, the theatre is still going strong (better than ever after its stunning £25m refurbishment) and the ghostly tale is still entertaining the crowds.
For Christmas 2018, the classic festive yarn has been given a modern twist.
Lots of the staples of Dickens’ Victorian London are there but so are 21st-century touches such as shopping trolleys, modern shoes and references to food banks.
Felix Hayes is outstanding as Scrooge. With his tall and statesmen like appearance plus bald head and beard, he commands the stage.
His performance is so good, we even missed him at points when he doesn’t feature and is in the background observing the scenes put on by the three visiting spectres.
But that is not to take anything from the rest of the cast. There is no weak link.
There’s the sprightly Saikat Ahamed as Scrooge’s son Freddie (who also puts in a great turn as Mrs Fezzigwig), the superb deaf actress Nadia Nadarajah as Bob Cratchit whose use of sign language is cleverly interwoven into the story and the brilliant Gwyneth Herbert as a very Bristolian ghost of Christmas present who opens the second act with a panto-style sing-song.
As is so often true at the Bristol Old Vic, the set is also a star in its own right.
Despite mostly being just a set of scaffolding with minimal props including some moving stairs and a four poster bed, the cast makes clever use of their surroundings and the music and lighting create the perfect ghostly atmosphere.
We won’t give it away but the ending is fantastic with a little bit of audience participation and when Tiny Tim utters those legendary words; I wasn’t crying, you were!
This is a Bristol Old Vic festive extravaganza at its very best and we urge one and all to get down and enjoy it this Christmas!
A Christmas Carol is at Bristol Old Vic until 13 January 2019.
Images by Geraint Lewis