Review: Immersive Production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL Highlights the Best Parts of Dickens' Beloved Tale

By: Dec. 10, 2019
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Review: Immersive Production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL Highlights the Best Parts of Dickens' Beloved Tale

It's a story with dozens of iterations and adaptations, but a few small adjustments to this beloved Christmas tale make all the difference in Soup Can Theatre and The Three Ships Collective's A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

The shifts in the story, made by playwright Justin Haigh, all feel completely natural in a blink-and-you'll-miss that they aren't a part of Dickens' tale. Accompanying Haigh's great script is a simple, effective staging under director Sarah Thorpe. The walk-around production, set in the Campbell House Museum, takes great advantage of its location to show the past, present and future of Ebenezer Scrooge. Audience members start in his cool, sparse office before being whisked through the historic home, with scenes unfolding in dining rooms, bedrooms, studies and even on the large wooden staircase.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Thomas Gough), a wealthy man motivated by greed, on a Christmas Eve in 1800s England. After he refuses his nephew (Tayves Fiddis) a relationship, threatens his hardworking clerk Bob Cratchit (Nicholas Koy Santillo), signs off on a foreclosure, and fires his housemaid Mrs. Dilber (Diana Franz) - and all of this before turning in for the night - he's visited by his late business partner Jacob Marley (Marcel Dragonieri) who warns him of the fate awaiting beyond the grave. Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts to help him see the error in his ways before it's too late; the gentle, ethereal Past (Justine Christensen), the boozy, rowdy Present (Kat Letwin) and the foreboding Yet to Come (Heather Marie Annis).

This is a relatively simple production with a large ensemble, and each member of the cast does whatever part they play - and for most, parts - with visible passion and care. Gough is a perfectly crotchety Scrooge, and although he never utters the infamous "Bah Humbug" line, he does a phenomenal job of showing the man's descent from pride to humility. Santillo gives Cratchit a great deal of dimension between work and home, in addition to shouldering one of the most emotional scenes. As Scrooge's guide, and the audience's guide from room to room, Dragonieri balances haunting monologues with exasperated tour-guide mannerisms to great dramatic and comedic effect.

Letwin is a vibrant addition to the ensemble, not just as a ghost, but in smaller group scene roles as well - she lands some of the best jokes in the production, and her contagious laugh lights up the rooms of the old house. In two Christmas past scenes, separated by several years, Annis portrays Belle, the woman young Ebenezer (Michael Hogan) loved. The two are immediately charming, and although their fate is known from the moment they meet you can't help but root for them; Hogan is a shy, awkward Ebenezer against Annis's sweet, outgoing Belle. Watching the shift in their relationship is painful, even though the characters have only had a few minutes together - a sign of how skilled both Hogan and Annis are in establishing these characters with so little time.

Costumes (Madeline Ius, also credited with properties design) are period appropriate and pretty, fitting perfectly with the characters wearing them and the old mansion's aesthetic. The addition of music (music direction by Pratik Gandhi) helps to liven up the middle segment of the performance, and grounds more serious moments.

While A CHRISTMAS CAROL might be a long-running tradition for many people during the holidays, this production makes it feel brand new. The lessons are simple and still relevant today, which speaks to the genius of Dickens as well as Haigh and Thorpe's innovation in bridging the gaps between when the tale was written and now. It's in the simplicity of this telling that it succeeds - the moral of Scrooge's story hits home a little harder when you've walked - literally - in his footsteps.


The Three Ships Collective and Soup Can Theatre's A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 22 at the Campbell House Museum, 160 Queen St W, Toronto, ON.

For more information, or to find updates on ticket releases for the now sold-out run, visit https://christmascarolto.com/

Photo credit: Laura Dittmann



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