An Old Vic Production,A Christmas Carol is a version by Jack Thorn (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and conceived and directed by Matthew Warchus (Matilda the Musical). Now playing at the Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourneuntil 29 Dec 2022, this five Tony Awards® winner has cast David Wenham as Ebenezer Scrooge, the protagonist of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, alongside a host of talented performers. Opening Night performances included Cameron Bajraktarevic-Hayward as young Ebenezer, Bernard Curry as Bob Cratchit his faithful employee, Andrew Coshan as Fred his nephew and son of Little Fan, Emily Nkomo as Little Fan his sister, Sarah Morrison as Belle, a love lost, Theo Watson-Bonnice as Tiny Tim, Cratchit's son, and Anthony Harkin taking on both roles as his father and business partner Marley.
Get your tickets here, along with ticketing FAQs. Wheelchair and accessibility bookings can be made by calling 1300 11 10 11 (Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm), or by submitting an online request. This timeless and uplifting story features 12 heart-warming Christmas carols, including "O Holy Night," "Joy to the World," and "Silent Night."
A timeless tale, most everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and if you didn't it's a great time to introduce this immortal tale to a new generation. Scrooge's heart has grown cold like the winter snow, and he despises Christmas, driving away carollers with a 'bah humbug', along with an approach for a donation to charity. Despite having considerable personal wealth, he lives joylessly and has his one and only faithful worker Bob Cratchit at his beck and call, working him into the late hours. He has refused his nephew's invitation for Christmas and ignores Cratchit's plea to get home early to spend time with his family for Christmas. Explaining his son awaits until he returns home falls on deaf ears. Scrooge instead sends him on a further journey to deliver an item, ensuring Cratchit returns home later still.
Scrooge is in for a sleepless night when he is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley. He's condemned to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity. He has come to warn Scrooge that he's to be visited by three spirits - the Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. That if he doesn't mend his ways, Marley warns Scrooge he's in for an even bigger punishment than his own, in the afterlife.
What a joy and rare opportunity it was to see David Wenham live on stage, after having seen him in countless films on the big and little screen, and even falling a little in love with him in the ABC hit series Seachange with the gorgeous, talented Sigrid Thornton. That alone was the big drawcard for me, along with seeing Eddie Perfect in the row in front of me, and taking a picture with the friendly and approachable Lisa McCune, who also sat in the same row. She even stopped to chat and asked me what I thought of the last production I saw her in - Girl from the North Country. My night is complete!
The stage is set in a magical and olde worlde fashion, with what seemed like hundreds of lanterns adorning and dropping down from the high ceilings of the theatre, its numbers extending way beyond the stage, halfway across the theatre towards the crowd. Theatre-goers are entertained pre-show by an ensemble of musicians dressed in tails, cloaks, and top hats, while theatre attendants, dressed in the same fashion walk through the audience handing out free mini oranges and fruit mince pies resting on their old fashioned timber trays strapped around their necks. What a great introduction that brings immediate joy in this immersive production.
On the stage are sunken boxes and trunks that lift out of the floor to form tables and stools as needed. There's not much else other than two huge piles of dumped lanterns on the left of the stage as you face it, some still lit, cleverly providing a backlight for a dimly lit atmospheric stage that juts out into the audience in the middle. Scrooge's domain is surrounded by four frameworks that lift up from the floor alluding to walls and doors, its opening and closing creaking sounds and knocks on the door provided by the sound engineer as the actors open and unlock invisible doorknobs and bolts.
A chorus of narrators introduces the cantankerous Scrooge and punctuate the story throughout a capella. Wenham's on-stage star power is undeniable, but as much as he commands the atmospheric stage, the whole production in parts felt a little 'light'. It doesn't quite get in touch with its heart, and in spite of its length, felt like it was a little diluted and raced through. It was snappier and less gritty and as such loses some of its depth and solemnity. This resulted in the final scenes carrying less weight in the transition of the repentant Scrooge.
The spirits are less creepy and harsh, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come barely gets a look in on stage, and Scrooge's fortune lost in the end to local crooks is conveyed by spirits rather than in a scene that may have given his redemption more depth. That said, there's plenty that is truly magical and joyful, and filled with the spirit of the festive season. There's music and merriment especially for the Christmas dinner when the whole audience gets involved in gathering supplies for the table. It's immersive, silly and totally infectious and you find yourself leaving the theatre filled with festive joy. You just have to experience it for yourself, and prepare for snowfall. The musical handbells are glorious and in the final moments, Wenham requests our generosity by donating towards Food Bank so others may have relief and joy in their lives. A Christmas Carol is a perfect play, especially for this time of the year.