IF there is one image conjured up with the mention of Christmas, it is of a family sitting round a fire with a story.

And if there is one story we would expect to see being told, it is A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens’s tale of redemption and human kindness is ingrained in the British Christmas tradition, and this adaptation by the European Arts Company embraces its timelessness.

Clustered around tables in the beautiful chandeliered ballroom of the De Grey Rooms, we drink mulled wine by the fireplaces and watch John O’Connor hold the stage with his rich, booming voice as he re-creates Dickens's 1858 visit to York to give a public reading of his short novel.

Donning a bow tie, jacket and waistcoat, O’Connor’s performance is pitched at old-school finesse. At times, his accent changes are caricaturish, but in general, his performance is expressive and sure of its tone.

From the offset, he creates a magic space that draws you in and keeps you hooked. While his acting is good, O’Connor’s strength lies in the narration. This is oral storytelling at its finest, and as a storyteller he is earnest, engaging, and enthusiastic.

The show isn’t all tradition: there are sound effects of doors creaking, corridors echoing or ghosts moving through rooms. These enhance the intimacy and subtly offset O’Connor’s performance, but the lighting is heavy-handed, sometimes detracting from the performer’s atmosphere.

Overall, however, this is a beautifully intimate piece of storytelling with a familial, cosy atmosphere. It embraces its classical origin and has a true heart-warming Christmas spirit.

European Arts Company presents A Christmas Carol, De Grey Rooms Ballroom, York, tonight until Saturday, December 22, at 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Review by Ela Portnoy