A Christmas Carol review: Old Vic, London

He did, however, write the finest Christmas story since the Nativity in A Christmas Carol and create one of the richest repentant villains in Ebenezer Scrooge.

The story has been regularly adapted for stage and television and spawned around 20 films with the central role taken by the likes of Alistair Sim, Albert Finney and Mickey Mouse.

This year, as well as two versions under discussion here, there are productions in Stratford, Hull, Bolton, Dundee, Scarborough and the State Apartments at Windsor Castle.

Jack Thorne’s version of A Christmas Carol is an uneasy mixture of morality tale and pantomime.

Thorne strips away the period atmosphere (at times this London looks as bare as the Cratchit festive board) to focus on the redemption of Scrooge, whom Rhys Ifans plays with a Welsh lilt and a comic edge.

For no ostensible reason, Thorne makes Scrooge’s first employer, the jovial Mr Fezziwig, an undertaker (shades of Oliver Twist’s Mr Sowerberry) and his father a debtor, like Dickens’s own.

More pertinent is his identification of the Ghost of Christmas Future with Scrooge’s sister, Fan. Until its final moments, Matthew Warchus’s dimly lit, sparsely furnished production is equally dour.

Then, as if remembering the season, Warchus brings out the tinsel in the shape of a crowdpleasing shoot of food down from the gallery.

There’s even audience participation… well, one child is enlisted to bring on a wobbly jelly.

The high point of the production is its music. While there are few overtly Christian references in the original story, Thorne and Warchus seize on its title to offer a series of mellifluous carols.

A Christmas Carol 3/5 Old Vic, London SE1 (Tickets: 0844 8717628/oldvictheatre.com; £12-67.50)