NOVEMBER 30th, 2017
REVIEW BY TONY CARTER, SHOWBILL.CA STAFF WRITER
The Belfry’s production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol manages to stand out amongst adaptations of the story.
Dickens is one of the most famous writers in the English language, and A Christmas Carol is easily his most broadly known work. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future all in one night to motivate him to be a better person has appeared in films, cartoons, live action tv specials, video games, comics books, and, that’s right, theatre. Most people have a version of the story that is their favourite. Maybe you prefer the time that Scrooge was an 80s TV executive gluing antlers onto mice, or maybe your Scrooge is the one who employed Kermit the frog. The point is, it’s a daunting task to make one adaptation of the story stand out amongst the countless others that have been produced over the decades.
And it is a task that the Belfry’s creative team is more than up to. The show begins with the narrator taking the stage to describe the real life history of the ghost light, a special lamp that was left on in theatres at all times for the dual purpose of ensuring there were no accidents on stage and keeping spirits away. He goes on to explain that on this night the ghost light is not needed because we are in for a ghost story.
This framing device is immediately striking, and is made all the more effective thanks to some stellar set design, lighting, and sound. Special credit is also owed to the two spirits who are often on stage in one capacity or another, played by John Han and Jessica Hickman. Their appearance is wonderfully gothic and their demeanor is always fun, which perfectly captures the feeling that this show as a whole evokes. It is a Victoria ghost story, and it is also a comedy. Somehow, it manages to maintain a balance between these two points more often than not.
And while the technical aspects of this show are designed to wow, the strength of the cast cannot be overstated. Everyone performs admirably, including the child actors, the youngest of whom is in grade four. Tom McBeath as Scrooge and Gerry Mackay as both the narrator and the ghosts are especially strong, with the years they spent mastering their craft easily apparent in both performances.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Unless you have a particular aversion to Christmas-themed stories, this is a show worth seeing. And even if you do, this show is still worth seeing if you have any interest in the more technical aspects of theatrical design. The Belfry’s A Christmas Carol is an interesting take on one of the English language’s most well-known stories.