Mark Gatiss' ghostly adaptation of Dickens' timeless Christmas tale returns to Ally Pally after a successful run in 2022.

Last year, the Sherlock star himself fulfilled a lifelong ambition to play the ghost of Scrooge's partner Jacob Marley. This year the main draw is Lily Allen's actor dad Keith as the miser who is visited by three spirits on Christmas eve.

Gatiss' fascination with the supernatural leaves its phantom fingerprints all over this fantastical and lavish adaptation of the Yuletide favourite, which features ghostly special effects from haunted doorknockers to a terrifying soundscape.

Ham & High: Edward Harrison as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at Alexandra Palace TheatreEdward Harrison as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at Alexandra Palace Theatre (Image: Manuel Harlan)

It's Christmas Eve and, on a stage crowded with teetering towers of filing cabinets, Scrooge and Marley are busy at work while mocking the poor sentimental souls who put so much effort into their one day-off a year.

Edward Harrison’s put-upon Bob Cratchit is the focus of their bullying and intimidation as he scurries around trying to comply with their humiliating demands. Harrison brilliantly captures Bob's delusional optimism and blind faith in the goodness of others.

Marley (a curmudgeonly Peter Forbes) suddenly drops dead, and Scrooge is alone until, seven years later his late partner's spirit comes a’knocking. With the pallor of the sepulchre and loaded down with heavy chains welded to cashboxes, he rues his own past behaviour and warns Scrooge of his fate, unless he repents.

Ham & High: Keith Allen as ScroogeKeith Allen as Scrooge (Image: Manuel Harlan)

To help him mend his ways, he will be visited by three spirits. Each ghost is superb: terrifyingly acted, menacing and supported by an enthusiastic cast in cleverly conceived tableau.

Sporting fabulous sideburns, Allen is perhaps more convincing as the reformed Ebeneezer than Dickens' 'squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,' and tension is lost when his Scrooge seems too ready to accept the folly of his miserly ways and the impact his cruel behaviour has on others.

But the set design, magic effects, and evocative sound and lighting bring West End production to Muswell Hill. Hauntingly delightful!Ham & High: Joe Shire as one of the ghosts in A Christmas CarolJoe Shire as one of the ghosts in A Christmas Carol (Image: Manuel Harlan)

A Christmas Carol runs at Alexandra Palace Theatre until January 7.