Tidings of comfort and humbug are alive and well in David Cairns’ adaptation of Dickens' classic tale about the shallowness of greed. Under the ever-creative direction of Roy Lewis, Cairns brought his script to marvelous life, also doing double duty as the irascible Ebenezer Scrooge. His tone, timing and diction—while he’s whisked via female spirits into his reprehensible past, spotty present and cadaverous future (both his own and Tiny Tim’s)—held the production together admirably, which was only trumped by a wide array of visages during his metamorphosis from sinner to beloved uncle was completed.
Scrooge’s ghostly guides were models of “other side” decorum: Shannon Currie imbued the past transgressions with just enough scorn; Kathryn DeLory began the present-day review (denialists everywhere—er, hello there Conrad Black—will wonder what all the fuss was about) with a dollop of campiness that promised a welcome, fresh take but soon slipped into merely competent delivery; finally, like the tormented King of the counting house, the mute Ghost of Christmas Future (Karen Knox) made her points brilliantly with nary a word said.
Gluing the scenes together was Scott Lale’s affable narration in the role of the prolific and social-savvy author. Robert Woodcock was completely at home as the long-suffering Bob Crachit—a loving father to his over-the-top son, Peter (Chris Watson), possibly wayward daughter (Knox—most of the energetic players took on at least two roles) and stoically adoring wife (Currie).
To keep things moving swiftly and the traffic jams to the minimum, the Rose Theatre Studio’s flexible space was used to full advantage. Behind readily accessible Chinese screens, each of the four corners housed the results of Alex Amini’s detail-rich costume design. Like a well-oiled machine, the garments were donned, doffed or delivered with just-in-time precision so that the otherwise basic-black-covered cast could morph from laundress to heavenly host in a flash. Chad Pettit’s sound design added much to the proceedings save and except for the too-pedestrian bell that ushered Scrooge from one world into the next; still the real-time chimes melding into the during the finale's full-blown steeple cry was seamless.
As the cast members went about their business, the only distraction from three sides of the theatre-in-the-square set-up was the above-us-all control booth—the enjoyment of the operators wiht thier work could readily be observed. Perhaps lighting designer Mike Rainey might be employed to work his magic behind the scenes as well (the capture of Marley’s back-from-the-grave visage was an early triumph for the wizards of darkness-and-light).
Lewis took to heart his considerable experience at Stratford and employed “speak hands for me” with a view both to flow and logistics. Props were eschewed in favour of hand-sculpted mugs, pens, snowballs and coins. That—combined with the ghoulish chorus, surrounding Scrooge’s descent into charity—delivers the perfect play for our time. One which depicts the riches-hungry mighty coming face-to-face with their own ghosts from transgressions past. JWR