‘Christmas Carol’ Assessment: Brooding Scrooge Will get Ghosted
I awakened with the sight of snow banked in opposition to my windowsill, so completely even and untouched that it was as if every flake had been positioned by hand. Then the mug of scorching oatmeal and the donning of the baggiest, fuzziest — and, thus, comfiest — lounge pants I personal. What higher method to put together for a matinee efficiency of “A Christmas Carol”?
The ritual felt significantly apropos for the manufacturing I used to be readying to observe (my sixth “Carol” in 10 days, by the best way): The Previous Vic’s festive dwell broadcast, starring Andrew Lincoln and directed by Matthew Warchus. When you had been in New York final (pre-Covid) vacation, you may need caught this similar buzzy manufacturing on the Lyceum on Broadway, the place Campbell Scott performed the lead.
In his evaluate final November, Ben Brantley praised the present for “retaining the jolliness and sentimentality” of earlier variations whereas additionally foregrounding the story’s social consciousness. This live-streamed manufacturing does the identical, and regardless of some uneven pacing and distracting camerawork, this “Christmas Carol” offers all the Christmas cheer you’ll want this season.
Jack Thorne, who did this nimble adaptation, places extra pep in Dickens’s step, rushing via sure elements of the narrative, increasing others and writing essentially the most obstinate Scrooge I’ve ever encountered. This Ebenezer isn’t all the way down to play any reindeer video games. And did I point out the daddy points?
Right here we watch Scrooge’s father — an abusive alcoholic — beat his son and drive him into the job market to cowl his personal money owed. It’s just like the DC Comics universe “Christmas Carol”— as darkish and brooding as a tragic, wealthy orphan who attire up as a bat at night time.
Don’t get me flawed: The adjustments contemporize the story and polish it with one other layer of realism. Warchus’s purposeful route units a combative Scrooge and his variety clerk Bob Cratchit much more at odds. Because the urchin-like Cratchit, John Dagleish appears to set himself a-quiver at each disturbance.
Lincoln, who spent years preventing zombies on “The Strolling Lifeless” (and was the creepy man with the poster boards in “Love Truly” — sure, really), is remarkably charismatic even at his meanest. Nonetheless good-looking with a wintry beard, his Scrooge is all eyebrows and mouth, furrowing right into a suspicious glare or twitching right into a sneer. It’s sufficient to make a Victorian woman swoon.
Talking of which, Scrooge’s childhood love curiosity, Belle (a steadfast Gloria Obianyo), is given greater than the standard persona, christened with a refreshing wit and eager sensitivity to financial inequality.
However neither headstrong Belle nor his earnest nephew Fred (Eugene McCoy) can rehabilitate Scrooge. The truth is, even the ghosts have a tricky go of it. Scrooge challenges the trio, criticizing their strategies, dismissing their visions — even dashing them alongside, as a result of he’s a really busy man with no time for second-rate hauntings. Warchus sadly appears to really feel the identical: It takes lower than quarter-hour from the beginning for Marley’s ghost to seem onstage, simply seconds after Bob’s exit.
The Previous Vic doesn’t disappoint with its staging: Lanterns hold from the ceiling, hovering within the darkness like stars in an evening sky, and snow falls as all of a sudden and quietly because it did within the Northeast this week. (Rob Howell designed the beautiful units and costumes.)
And but the filming does not at all times do the manufacturing justice. That is the fourth, and most elaborate, Previous Vic present carried out and streamed dwell from an empty theater; the reliance on cut up screens and a number of cameras, right here paired with manipulated shadows and video projections, might be confounding sufficient to make a caroler dizzy.
Principally, although there’s loads to be jolly about in “A Christmas Carol” proper now; in spite of everything, isn’t it true that each time a miserly capitalist is woke up to a extra politically progressive and customarily humane way of life on this planet an angel will get its wings?
And whereas Thorne’s script requires a number of further contortions to information this cantankerous skinflint via his nice transformation, it’s definitely worth the wait to get to the finale.
Out of the blue there’s snowfall and a jubilant refrain of “Pleasure to the World,” a forged performing available bells and a feast that actually comes down from the heavens (brussels sprouts by parachute and an enormous turkey by zip line from the balcony). Sure it’s quite a bit, nevertheless it’s achieved with intention: a request for donations to a British meals financial institution seems onscreen in the course of the ultimate minutes.
In one other time I may need been extra grinchy, may need felt this was all an excessive amount of. However every thing about this yr has been an excessive amount of — too many gravestones and an excessive amount of Scrooge-worthy conduct. So let the veggies fly, and provides us bells and snow and all of the merry we are able to muster.
A Christmas Carol
By way of Dec. 24; oldvictheatre.com
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