A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Justin Haigh (Three Ships Collective/Soup Can Theatre). At the Campbell House Museum (160 Queen West). Runs.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Justin Haigh (Three Ships Collective/Soup Can Theatre). At the Campbell House Museum (160 Queen West). Runs to December 22. $20-$30. Sold out. christmascarolto.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Charles Dickenss A Christmas Carol is so ubiquitous at this time of year that its hard to approach it with any sort of freshness.
Thankfully the ingenious folks at the Three Ships Collective and Soup Can Theatre have done just that. And its not simply because theyre performing the show at the Campbell House Museum, a venue built 10 years after Dickens was born, although that adds immensely to the experience of this tale of the miserly Scrooges (Thomas Gough) spiritual awakening one Christmas Eve.
Justin Haighs nimble, imaginative script of course draws the basic plot and some dialogue from Dickens (how could it not?) but Haigh adds details that enhance the narrative and themes. Theres a bit about Scrooge and a foreclosure, for instance, that isnt in the original but speaks to our post-2008 financial collapse anxiety and a plot point about blindness is startlingly effective as well as thematically apt. Plus having the ghost of Scrooges partner, Jacob Marley (Christopher Fowler), act as narrator and guide, is a brilliant idea. On the night I attended, he even prevented an audience member from taking photos. If only every show had a ghostly intermediary!
Sarah Thorpes sensitive direction makes efficient use of the space. The chilliness of the basement is particularly fitting for Scrooges under-heated office and the cramped Cratchit home. And one particular staging detail in the upstairs bedroom adds a frisson of horror to the proceedings.
The casting is impeccable. Goughs Scrooge is convincingly angry, making his pronouncements fierce and terrifying. William Matthewss Bob Cratchit really does look overworked and underfed. John Frays Fred and Alex Dallass Mrs. Dilbert are picture-perfect representations of opposites on the Victorian-era social scale. Makenna Beattys Tiny Tim is endearing without being saccharine. And Christopher Lucass Ghost Of Christmas Present has a marvellous energy (the Midlands accent adds a lot to his characterization as well.)
Amy Marie Wallaces violin playing adds atmospheric notes to several scenes. Its characteristic of this show that even this isnt overdone. The music is used sparingly, and so its all the more effective much like everything in this one-of-a-kind production, which deserves to become an annual event.