Review: A Christmas Carol, Derby Theatre

Picture by Robert Day

It’s a tale we all know well, but Derby Theatre has triumphantly infused Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with fresh life to create a visual and enthralling show which will leave audiences spellbound. 

It is an ageless moral tale with lessons of charity and goodwill that sadly still resonate today. Dickens’ concern for the Victorian class divide is still as relevant as it was in his time.

Neil Duffield’s adaptation of the play was first staged at Derby, directed by Sarah Brigham, in 2014 and I thought it would be hard to improve on it. However this year’s director Oliver O’Shea has managed to do just that.

The team has polished the story’s social conscience to bring us a tale of redemption which packs an emotional thwack. I can’t have been the only one shedding a few tears as the show made a pointed case for the benefits of redistributing your personal wealth.

That’s not to say this is a production of doom and gloom. There is plenty to delight and hopefully you will leave the theatre with a feeling of joy and optimism for the warmth of human kindness.

The merciless and miserly old Mr Scrooge hates Christmas, cheeriness and children in equal measure.

He cares for nothing but his money and refuses to show an ounce of compassion to his fellow man. 

But that’s all set to change, when he is visited by ghosts from the past, present and future.

Gareth Williams, playing the skinflint Scrooge, hooks us all in with a magnetic performance from the start, and the rest of the cast and The Young Company ensure that this version of A Christmas Carol was a perfectly executed piece of theatre.

The spectacular set with its giant clock with a backdrop of Victorian streetscapes has the same wow factor I remember from the original production and the integration of more festive music from the extremely talented ensemble adds to the festive atmosphere.

Take your family to see this show if you want to remind them that Christmas cheer and goodwill is much deeper than the imagined world of the television adverts.

The rest of the cast are Oliver Ashworth, Sophia Hatfield, Liz Jadav, Aimèe Kwan, James McLean, Benedict Salter and Charlotte Workman.

The members of the three Young Company teams are Scarlett Aillitt, Keisha Ghai, Kian Lucas, Thomas Slater, Freya Youngman, William Brown, Primrose Cole, Leo Fox-White, Evangelina Ofosu, Lily-May Poulton, Georgina Salwey, Fintan Buckard, Tianna Cooper-Adjei, Christopher Johnson, Eva Magee, Angelie Pantilano and Lottie Stone. The charperones are Emily Ellis, Andy Mandoiu and Helena Rimmer. 

The creative team are Jack Quarton, composer and musical director; Neil Irish, set and costume designer; Emma Jones, lighting designer; Ivan Stott, sound designer; Natasha Harrison, movement director; Kay Magson, casting director; John Barber, puppetry consultant; Rachel Robertson, stage manager; Anthony Fearnley and Emelia Stoddart, assistant stage managers and Alison Lane, Tim Heywood and Aimee Russam who made the costumes.

A Christmas Carol can be seen at Derby Theatre until January 4, for tickets go to