Aden Gillett as Ebenezer Scrooge. Pictures: Manuel Harlan

A Christmas Carol

The Royal Shakespeare Company



Following great success and acclaim in 2017, the RSC’s production of David Edgar’s new adaptation of Dicken’s Victorian classic is once again a Christmas treat bringing festive cheer to audiences in Stratford.

The tale has become a Christmas icon and its multiple adaptations for television and on film reflect Dickens’ timeless social commentary of Victorian life as he knew it.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh brings Edgar’s adaptation of the classic tale to life in an exciting style ad Dickens himself is seen in the retelling, painting the picture as the play unfolds.

Edgar’s concept is that this Christmas Carol is not yet finished, and Dickens tells us in real time how he wants the story to pan out. His friend, John Forster, played by Beruce Khan, asks questions while Dickens thinks out the story as it is played before us as Kavanaugh directs with warming heart to give life to Dickens’ social tale.


Steven Elliot as Jacob Marley

With Dickens, played by the charismatic Joseph Timms, being as active within the story as each of the fictional characters, he is both narrator and character. He slots himself nicely into his own world by becoming an extra guest at a Christmas gathering, and within scenes of dialogue, he interjects by telling his characters what to say, becoming almost a director of his own imagination.

This concept really shows us the parts of Dickens’ real life that he wanted to reflect within his story. As we see Dickens’ creative process mapped out in front of us, his imagination comes to life as he thinks about the importance of the lives around him.

Kavanaugh, through Edgar’s inventive adaptation, gives a realistic and imaginative approach to Dickens’ view of Victorian life, capturing the essence of Dickens as a social campaigner, helping us to understand the difference between the social norms of then and now, especially at Christmas time.

Stunning visuals and colourful textures create awesome effects in every scene and there are new details that come to light in so many moments, from the breath-taking costume of Danielle Henry as the Ghost of Christmas Present, to Stephen Brimson Lewis's  multi-functional set, which has long, dark, grey walls and a touch of Christmas magic in the form of projections at various points. The heart-warming Christmas touches with jovial song and dance elevate a wholesome spirit with impressive choreography by Georgina Lamb.

There is a clear and distinctive view of Victorian life and its bleakness within this production. This is down to an incredible cast who are committed to making Dickens’ world as realistic as possible. Every member of the cast is convincing, giving an instant view into Victorian life. Aden Gillett as Ebenezer Scrooge is fantastic. His journey from the tight and soulless millionaire to becoming the joyful helper is wonderfully uplifting. He controls the pace and story of the play, along with Timms, setting alight the touching story that a personality can be changed.


Gerard Carey as Bob Cratchit

His tale, the epitome of a Christmas story has the power to make us believe in the good in everyone, giving the promise of warmth and hope. Kavanaugh is not afraid to highlight Dickens’ bleak view of Victorian working-class life. Her vivid picture of the poor is particularly shown in scenes involving the Cratchit’s.

Bob Cratchit, played by Gerard Carey, is Scrooge’s clerk, being allowed the only day off a year for Christmas day. A particularly gripping moment is seen where Mr. Cratchit gives a toast to Scrooge for the privilege of his only day of rest. However, Mrs. Cratchit, played by Emma Pallant, does not see Scrooge’s generosity in the same way as her husband.

The pair are terrific actors, with Pallant moving the audience with a mother’s grief and worry. Carey presents the hard working and stoic bread winner. As a unit, they show us touching family moments which capture the hardships of Victorian life.

The production is a realistic approach to the social hierarchies of Dickens’ life. The social commentary is set against a spectacular backdrop of imagination and vibrance. This production allows us to understand the intricacies of Dickens’ mind and social relations. Through its bleakness and darkness, we also get a sense of enormous hope, knowing what life is like today in comparison to that experienced by Dickens. The production gives us the thought that a person can change, if they only change their habits. It is a production which heralds the spirit of Christmas from every angle. To 20-01-2019

Elizabeth Halpin


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