Bristol Old Vic
A Christmas Carol
Scrooge sets the scene
For those who don’t like pantomimes this is the Christmas show for you – loved it, loved it, loved it.
I was fearful it was going to be a large portion of Victorian misery with Ebenezer Scrooge as the wizened old spendthrift moaning and groaning in a pre-Christmas dose of doom and gloom.
However, someone I was working with a Bristol Cathedral Choir School, a fan of Dicken's pithy words, pointed out that it does have a happy ending and woe and behold Tiny Tim didn’t need a modern day, Christmas miracle because in this production he wasn’t even using a crutch to walk.
The Bristol Old Vic presentation of A Christmas Carol is Beetlejuice in chains meets Fiddler On The Roof in Bristle - a contemporary comedy with a trumpet playing Lady Gaga as one of the spirits.
It does have all the elements of panto: gender fluid actors, slapstick humour, the rumbustiousness of musical hall with non-verbal characters signing instead of miming.
And its Arabian Nights theme dates back to a time where some of the original stories were written.
Everything for a good night out with lots of bah humbug and no smutty jokes.
Scrooge is played by Royal Shakespeare Company actor Felix Hayes, a doppelgänger for a young Michael Eavis, of Glastonbury fame, and an equally large stage presence.
The static double height set with its scaffolding relied on precision scene changing by moving beds, tables and chairs back and forth including the innovative props like the stepladders doubling as tall 19th century clerk desks.
It was done seamlessly.
The costumes are the anarchic mismatch that is absolutely fabulous steampunk - stripey leggings, frilly tutus, baseball boots and NHS spectacles abound.
Faultless timing also came to the fore when the snow followed the man…like those black clouds in cartoons which only rain on the bad person.
Spirit three was a baddie in a hoodie with a hooked hand – ho, ho, ho.
Scrooge gets three spiritual experiences of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come.
Retired drama teacher Lynda Dicks said: “I thought the staging was superb especially the use of the scaffolding with the musicians perched up high.
“The characterisation was very good and I liked the fact they stayed true to the original story.”
However, some of the updating and Bristolian references weren’t completely to Lynda’s taste but the traditional appearance at the back of the audience and climbing through the stalls by some of the cast she thought hilarious fun.
Lynda added: “The audience participation including the obligatory panto-style song was great and the unfurling of the banners at end was stunning as I had never seen this done before it was truly a play for all ages.”
Former Nailsea Town Council chairman and retired primary school teacher Clare Hunt went to a preview performance at the end of November.
She said: “What a wonderful storyteller Charles Dickens was!
“The audience was told the first production was done on the same stage in 1844 only one year after the book was first went on sale.
“One can only imagine what the ghosts of that audience would have made of the performance we witnessed...especially the clever references to modern day life and Bristol.
“I think they would have been mesmerised by the creative nature of the performance.
“The use of the space offered by its stage, the cleverly designed costumes and the wonderful puppetry all enhanced the perfect performance.
“The audience, who at times became participants in the storytelling, displayed how much they enjoyed the experience through their enthusiastic applause at the end.
“It's well worth going to see it as part of your Christmas celebrations this year.”
Equally we would like all the cast members including the children to take an extra bow because you were so very good, thank you.
Carol Deacon and friends
ALL PHOTOS: Geraint Lewis
A Christmas Carol returns for 2019
A Christmas Carol breaks Box Office records at Bristol Old Vic
Standing room and box seats released for all performances
Early announcement of a return run for Christmas 2019 to meet unprecedented demand
Stop press: Bristol Old Vic announced the return of its sell-out production A Christmas Carol for 2019.
Told in true Bristolian style, this year’s production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Lee Lyford (The Snow Queen), adapted by Tom Morris (Swallows & Amazons, The Grinning Man) with music by Gwyneth Herbert (The Snow Queen), has been enchanting audiences of every age.
Alongside becoming the theatre's fastest-selling Christmas show, the production’s combination of innovative, playful staging and real heart, alongside a poignant message about the times we live in, has received a rapturous response from audiences and critics alike, being called 'quite fantastical' by The Times, with 'theatrical magic in all the right places' Bristol 24/7 and given the full ‘five stars’ by Bristol Post 'heart-warming, magical', 365 Bristol 'perfect for all ages' and Reviewsgate 'an absolute corker' and Nailsea People's own review top.
Standing room tickets have now been released for the rest of December and tickets for new year performances are quickly being snapped up as the perfect antidote to the January blues.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to grab a ticket this year, the 2019 returning production will go on sale this month.
Bristol Old Vic executive producer, Chloe Naldrett Elwood said: “We have been simply overwhelmed by the response to Lee Lyford’s beautiful staging of A Christmas Carol and are thrilled to be able to make this early announcement that the show will return to Bristol next year. Dickens' classic story about the thawing of a frozen heart has proved to be the perfect end to our Year of Change and we hope that by bringing the show back next year we will be able to share this magical production with even more people from the city and region.”
Bristol Old Vic artistic director and adaptor of A Christmas Carol Tom Morris said: “It is wonderful to see our invitation of welcome into the newly reopened building being taken up in such numbers with people eager to experience all the theatre now has to offer.
"This announcement, alongside the announcement of our full 2019 programme, coming in January, aims to build on that invitation and welcome.
"So thank you, Bristol. In a simple and true way, thank you for coming!”
A Christmas Carol is currently running at Bristol Old Vic until Sunday, January 13.
For best available seats for January 2019 contact the box office for last-minute availability on 0117 949 3993.
It is open weekedays 10am-6pm and Saturday mornings.
A Christmas Carol returns to Bristol Old Vic from Thursday to Sunday, November 28 to January 12, 2020.