Thursday, 6 December 2018

'A Christmas Carol' at Bristol Old Vic

Felix Hayes as Scrooge - photo by Geraint Lewis
Bah humbug!

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a spectacular new musical show from the Bristol Old Vic, and this year the team has yanked the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol out of the vaults. With the collective minds of Tom Morris, Lee Lyford and Gwyneth Herbert pulling the strings, this is one production that is guaranteed to leave you wishing a merry Christmas to one and all.

Relocated from the grizzly streets of Victorian London to the cobbled paths of Bristol, in this version of A Christmas Carol we find miserly loan shark Ebenezer Scrooge toiling away on Christmas Eve in his grotty office, with his put-upon assistant Bob Cratchit obligingly doing his bidding. Refusing to take part in the cheery Christmas celebrations, Scrooge ushers away carol singers and charity fundraisers and grumpily stomps home to his desolate and barren home for another night on his own. Or so he thinks… until his long dead colleague Jacob Marley summons up the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future to give Scrooge the biggest wake up call of his life.

Felix Hayes is simply outstanding as grumpy Scrooge. With his deep voice, lofty height and well crafted air of irritation, he perfectly conjures up the spirit of curmudgeonly old Scrooge. And he also conveys the change in Scrooge so well - there is something enormously affecting about seeing a big man crumble that will soften the hardest of hearts, and it is hard to imagine anyone else but Hayes who could have filled Scrooge’s boots so well.

Gwyneth Herbert as the Ghost of Christmas Present - photo by Geraint Lewis
But of course, he is far from alone on the stage. All of the classic characters from A Christmas Carol are here: Little Fan, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and co, they are all present and correct. And my word, if Tiny Tim’s scene doesn’t reduce you to tears then you have the soul of a stone.

I think possibly my favourite moment, and the most affecting part, was the simple scene when Scrooge - having seen the error of his ways - is clambering across a row of audience members to get back on the stage. As he climbs across the audience, trying not to knock over their glasses of wine, he asks them what they think he should do next. “Give your money to charity!” “Give all your money away” And as simple as this moment is, this interaction with the audience and Scrooge’s responses to them, really worked and, to my mind, was the most effective way of showing how much he had changed. (Maybe I’m just easily pleased, but it’s always fun when members of the cast come into the audience during a show.)

Bravo, Bristol Old Vic. A Christmas Carol is another triumph in your bursting catalogue of Christmas shows. Long may your reign continue. And long may you keep working with Felix Hayes.

A Christmas Carol is performed at Bristol Old Vic until 13 January 2019. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Tiny Tim's heartbreaking bed scene - photo by Geraint Lewis

No comments:

Post a Comment