DARK, bleak and haunting, this is a Christmas show like no other.

Dickens’s festive classic has been re-told so many times it has lost its punch. What Creation Theatre have done for their seasonal show at The North Wall is restore its venomous sting, to the chilling moral tale it was intended. Though presented for jaded modern eyes, it is more gloomy, twisted and powerful than even the original. Dickens would surely love it.

Creation can always be relied upon to surprise. Previous festive shows, such as Treasure Island and last year’s Snow White underlined what this superlative company are capable of, as did their harrowing 1984 at the Mathematics Institute earlier this year.

But none come close to this year’s Christmas cracker.

They dispense with the romantic fluffy Victorian imagery of hot muffins and carol singers and plunge us into a pestilent grimy Victorian London – and into the even grungier soul of Ebenezer Scrooge, played magnificently by Nicholas Osmond as the nastiest man in London – a loathsome, callous, money-grasping monster who would rather see his debtors die to ease the population problem, than default on their repayments.

He has no redeeming features whatsoever. Or so it seems, until the ghostly visitations take us through his life showing how he ended up like this, and we are with him.

Parts are truly terrifying – one scene reminiscent of The Woman in Black had me jumping out of my seat, other parts are grimly psychological.

Other moments are belly-achingly hilarious – wait for the Justin Beiber song. Like everything here, it is brilliant in its subtle minimalism. The silences scream while the dialogue whispers and we fill in the gaps.

More powerfully though, it is touching; moving even. I am not afraid to admit to shedding a couple of tears, and was not alone. This, after all, is a tale of redemption – and we have never witnessed such a turnaround.

The acting, and singing, throughout is superb.

Shelly Atkinson and Clare Humphrey, both familiar Creation faces, play 10 roles between them – and look fabulous – as does the whole cast. Action takes place in the gloomy set and around, beside and behind us.

Be warned: this is not panto. It is so much better than that. It is the antidote to panto and all that saccharine Christmas guff. This is a family show, but that does not mean it’s a children’s show, though kids will adore it. And so will you. Though you may need a stiff drink afterwards.

This is as good as theatre gets.


* Creation’s A Christmas Carol continues at The North Wall, Summertown, Oxford until January 6.

Go to thenorthwall.com