STAGE REVIEW: A Christmas Carol - at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Sunday, January 20, 2019.

THE public called for it and they got exactly what they had clamoured for!

Dickens’ classic tale of redemption went down that well with audiences a year ago at the theatre next to the River Avon, it was perhaps always on the cards their calls for ‘More’ would be answered with a much anticipated repeat showing.

What a wise decision by the theatre’s hierarchy to accede to this unprecedented call to return to this much-loved smash-hit.

Last year’s Christmas story was quite special and now this year’s festive treat from the RSC has arguably surpassed it in spectacular style.

Twelve months on there has been a spot of tinkering, some tidying up and several interesting alterations, but on the whole it remains fairly true to the original Dickens novel published in the mid-19th century.

A story that formulates before our very eyes as Charles Dickens and John Forster, the author’s editor and friend, expound on their vision of the harsh life and times the working classes endured during Queen Victoria’s reign.

We learn of children as young as four having to go to work, some in the dangerous environment of the coal mines, little in the way of eduction for the working class young and food that nowadays would have us all turning up our noses…

Joseph Timms (Dickens) and Beruce Khan (Forster) are a perfectly balanced pairing as they thrust and parry their thoughts on a vision of the perfect Christmas tale that puts the ills of the time and the social conscience of this timeless tale under the microscope.

Several decades are delved into although really it all happens on one ghostly night when the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and the Future arrive to see if skinflint Scrooge, a lean, mean money-lender, can be persuaded to change his ways and perhaps learn to pity himself, his neighbour and family, and hopefully his put-upon assistant, Bob Cratchit.

David Edgar, renowned for his work with the RSC, has done a first rate job with his adaptation which assuredly embraces the message of this festive story of redemption and compassion.

Aden Gillett, who is in his RSC debut season, nails Scrooge’s ‘Bah, humbug!’ with considerable conviction and style, all of which is mixed with subtle humour and the heart-warming realisation of the error of his ways.

He will be recognised by many for roles in numerous stage plays and films such as The Borrowers and The Winslow Boy, while television credits include Vera, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, and more.

Gerard Carey was equally as enjoyable as the poor and subservient Cratchit, whose life changes as dramatically as Scrooge’s reincarnation into a man of philanthropy.

All around the stage there were performances that were a joy to behold and several spots of foot-tapping music and choreography just added to the pleasure.

These included Claire Carrie, who took on several roles, Clive Hayward likewise with his foppish Fezziwig among others, and also Steven Elliott, while Danielle Henry was just as versatile and provided us with an amusingly droll Christmas Present with attitude.

The production also features a host of children - too many to mention but they all delightfully deliver.

A touch over two hours of great family entertainment and if you want to provide your loved ones with a special treat the advice would be to book now. Availability to the end of the year is extremely limited but there are more opportunities in the New Year to ensure a seat.