We absolutely loved A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic last year and giving it five stars was a no brainer.
We clearly weren’t alone in being impressed as the production had a record-breaking run which has resulted in its return this year.
Is this year’s Scrooge as good as last year’s?
At the heart of last year’s show was a stupendous performance as Ebenezer Scrooge by Felix Hayes who commanded the stage.
I must admit that before seeing the show, we wondered whether this year’s leading man would match that performance.
But we needn’t have worried as John Hopkins is superb as the miserly old man who is transformed into a generous philanthropist after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
Hopkins plays the role with an added darkness and his grumbling bah humbugs are a joy to hear.
We were pleased to see that sign language is once again cleverly integrated into the story with deaf actor Stephen Collins cast as Bob Cratchitt (he also plays Mrs Fezziwig and Bridget).
The wonderful Gwyneth Herbert is back as the Ghost of Christmas Present. She’s also the show’s musical director and gets the local crowd laughing with off the cuff singing of audience members’ responses to what Christmas means to them.
There are other panto-like elements with a child plucked from the audience to play Tiny Tim and an audience participation ending which transforms the glorious Bristol Old Vic auditorium into an explosion of colour.
Recreating a gloomy Victorian city
The set is similar to last year with a stripped-back stage of scaffolding supported by Anna Watson’s brilliant lighting design to recreate the dark streets of a gloomy Victorian city.
We recognised some of the tunes from 2018 but Herbert has also written great new songs for this year’s production.
Puppets feature again including a rather freaky moment with two children emerging from a cupboard and jump onto Scrooge.
Many of the costumes have a gothic quality to them and as John Hopkins says in a video about the show, there’s a definite Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas ethos to it.
Despite seeing A Christmas Carol last year, we were never bored. In fact, we absolutely loved it all over again. Go and see it!
A Christmas Carol is at Bristol Old Vic until 12 January 2020.
Images by Geraint Lewis.