A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Old Vic

With London zipping from total lockdown to Tier 2 and now Tier 3, theatres have been opening and closing like malfunctioning automatic doors. Covid is proving hugely disruptive to everyone around the world, but possibly more so to theatre workers, most of whom are freelance.

As I posted before there were supposed to be three versions of Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL running simultaneously in London. But with the Bridge and Dominion Theatres due to close tonight the only version available, albeit in streamed version, is courtesy of the Old Vic.

oldvic.com

Theatre makers are having to become film makers now. The Old Vic’s In Camera series, where actors perform live to an empty theatre and the play is streamed live to audiences around the globe, is one of the few innovations that has managed to keep going through this awful pandemic year.

A Christmas Carol is a story that never fails to tug at the heartstrings, and this version, by Jack Thorne, is no exception. Scrooge is a comparatively youthful chap and is ably, and movingly, played by Andrew Lincoln. He is well supported by a cast of actors, singers and glass ringers (making music with glasses, a lovely touch), a live band and some very fancy and ghostly special effects.

It is not the same as the live experience, not by a long chalk. I found the split screen distracting – it is often split into three, which means that two people talking to one another appear in different sections of the screen and it is difficult to visualise them, or to connect properly with them, especially when one actor jumps from one section to another. And the sound values were a bit all over the place (though that may well be my television). The modern additions – the appearance of Scrooge’s tyrannical father, to partly explain how Scrooge ended up as he did, and his meeting up with his old love Belle – fit in well without seeming overly ‘woke’. Despite the over-complicated camera work, I was utterly moved and engrossed throughout.

Covid has produced some wonderful innovations – as one would expect from creative people. Personally speaking I prefer my streamed plays plain, in full screen. The original was set in the round, and I can well imagine how wonderfully engaging that would have been. Nothing could replace that. But being able to watch a play ‘live’ on one’s television screen at home is the closest one can get now to the real thing.

The play is running until 24 December at 7pm each evening. Tickets are available here: https://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2020/old-vic-in-camera/a-christmas-carol-5