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A Christmas Carol

  • Theatre, Drama
  • The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. David Wenham as Scrooge for A Christmas Carol.
    Photograph: Jeff Busby
  2. The ensemble cast of A Christmas Carol.
    Photograph: Jeff Busby
  3. The three ghosts of Christmas, in A Christmas Carol.
    Photograph: Jeff Busby

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

This adaptation of the classic Christmas story tugs at the heartstrings, thanks to David Wenham’s emotionally complex portrayal of Dickens’ cold-hearted miser

It’s been nearly two centuries since Charles Dickens wrote his famous ghost story, A Christmas Carol, and in that time the play has become synonymous with the holiday season. We’ve been treated to a number of adaptations – perhaps most famously the Muppets version – but with fresh treatment by Jack Thorne, the Old Vic interpretation proves that the Industrial-era story can still warm the hearts of contemporary audiences.

It’s tricky immersing a Southern Hemisphere audience into a tale that relies heavily on the archetypal white Christmas, but within moments of stepping into the Comedy Theatre, the atmosphere is distinctly 19th-century London. The stage is lit by dozens of tiny lanterns, cast members are tossing mandarins – a coveted Christmas treat of that era – into the audience and a band sits on stage playing festive jingles. 

The music fades, the lights dim and four door frames lift from the stage. This is the bulk of the production’s sparse set, but what it lacks in tangible set pieces it makes up for with well-timed sound effects (by sound designer Simon Baker) to convey turning knobs, slamming doors and shattering lanterns. Our antagonist-turned-protagonist Ebeneezer Scrooge emerges, played by David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Lion, Elvis), who is captivating in his turn as the penny-pinching miser. 

After Scrooge’s business partner Marley (Anthony Harkin, Kinky Boots) passes, he returns as a ghost shackled by his own sins, beseeching Scrooge to make amends to avoid a similar unhappy fate. Unconvinced, Scrooge continues to treat his relatives and employees as expendable in the pursuit of wealth – but when he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, he’s scared straight and begins to atone for his old ways. What makes Thorne’s adaptation so special is its emphasis on making Scrooge introspective and fleshing out his past to explain how he ended up this way. 

Wenham adeptly transitions between Scrooge’s various emotional states; he’s loathsome as the gruff Scrooge of Act One, whose throaty proclamations are accompanied by flying spittle. In his interactions with his abusive father (Harkin), he’s childlike, cowering and hungry for validation. With his first love Belle (Sarah Morrison, Mamma Mia!) he’s warm and loving, but wryly funny with his former boss and colleagues. And when gathering the crew for the climactic Christmas feast, he shakes with excitement, stumbling over his words as if his thoughts are moving faster than his mouth could. 

While no one else quite holds a candle to Wenham’s performance, Theo Watson-Bonnice steals hearts as Tiny Tim, and Bernard Curry (Wentworth, The Rocky Horror Show) is sympathetic as Tim’s father, Bob Cratchitt. Together, they’re responsible for ensuring there’s not a dry eye in the house, and this is your warning to come prepared with tissues. The production captures the warmth and joy of a Christmas spent with loved ones, while also staying true to the heart of Dickens’ story – a scathing critique of the wealth gap that we still face today – by raising funds for Foodbank Victoria. 

After more must-see shows? We’ve rounded up the best of Melbourne theatre and musicals this month.

Time Out's 100 Days of Summer calendar is here to help you plan your entire summer in Melbourne.

Adena Maier
Written by
Adena Maier


The Comedy Theatre
240 Exhibition St
Nearby stations: Parliament
From $49.50

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