With his rich voice, persuasive physical presence and, most of all, his love of Dickens’ work, Callow proves the perfect narrator of this cautionary Christmas tale.

There’s some unnecessarily distracting business with a pile of chairs but, that apart, Tom Cairns’ simple staging (inspired by Dickens’ own performing version) effectively conjures the joyful festivities of the Fezziwigs’ party, the grimy gloom of London streets and the cheerless abode where super stingy Ebenezer Scrooge encounters the ghost of Jacob Marley, his long dead business partner and fellow skinflint.

Callow brings each character to life – not just a curmudgeonly Scrooge begrudgingly granting Bob Cratchit a single day off, but also those who make the briefest of appearances: his kindly sister, the young woman who ditched him in his youth as his love of money grew greater than his affection for her, the little lad sent to buy a massive turkey when, transformed, he grabs his chance for a better future, and cheerful Tiny Tim whose life hangs precariously in the balance until Scrooge sees the error of his penny-pinching ways.

Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB  
020 7907 7092
Tube: Leicester Square
Until 14th Jan (£15-£37.50)

Review: Louise Kingsley