Ah, another classic holiday story for the theatre. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has likely been told numerous ways over the decades, through the book, film, ballet and opera. Only this time, Pacific Theatre’s Ron Reed has a refreshing way of telling this tale. His adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes place inside a curiosity shop, using a Fiddler to help him by way of violin, song, moving props around the stage, and at times engaging in dialogue. Unlike the classic film, both Scrooge and the Spirit are played by Reed. As well, performer Kathleen Nisbet has a hand in portraying the Spirit. I found this version a very enjoyable and unique way to spend two hours (including one intermission). Both Reed and Nisbet give the audience plenty of room for imagination.
Nisbet is well known in the Vancouver folk music scene and has both sung and played fiddle in festivals and concerts in Canada, the US, and Europe. In addition, she regularly performs with Compaigni V’ni Dansi, a Vancouver-based dance group that blends traditional Métis dance with contemporary culture.
In addition to the music, sound effects are created from chains, bells, and other trinkets found within this eclectic yet intimate setting. After watching the opening performance last Friday evening, I spoke with one of the set’s instrumental figures, Properties Master Yasuyo Shimosaka. It must have been a field day for her, to source the props, including old toys, a wooden train set, shadow puppets, tiny doll house items, etc.
Yasuyo explained to me that Reed worked together with director Sarah Rodgers in workshopping the production, before starting rehearsals, at which point several of the props came to life, either by way of custom build, revamp, or outright purchase. It took the better part of three weeks to complete the set, enhanced by a crackling fireplace, a few rocking chairs, a Murphy bed, and for fun, a series of locks attached to one of the walls.
I was impressed by the variety and detail of this set, and took the time during intermission to further inspect it under house lighting. I had to double check to see that those were indeed cloth dolls hanging from the ceiling.
Jessie Award-nominated Ron Reed remembers having experienced a one-man Christmas Carol performance in his youth, one that he never forgot, and envisioned creating one day in his own way.
According to Reed, “Dickens was a tough old bird, with a raging social conscious and a fierce sense of justice—supernatural, don’t-mess-with-the-poor, eternal retributive judgement. Come to think of it, this one’s pure Pacific Theatre—the glories of language and character, the power of essential story: choice and consequence, judgement, transformation, redemption, rebirth.”
A Christmas Carol continues until December 31.
A Christmas Carol
Dates: December 2 through 31 (Wednesday through Saturday, 8pm; 2 pm matinee on Saturdays)
Venue: Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12th Avenue (at Hemlock)
Tickets: $16.50-29.50, not including HST. Reserve either by phone at 604.731.5518 or online
Artist talkback on Friday, December 9.
Added matinee on Wednesday, December 28
No performance on Saturday, December 24
About Ron Reed: Before founding Pacific Theatre in 1984, Reed received an MFA in acting from Cal Arts. He has been nominated for Jessie Awards for his performances in Shadowlands, A Man for All Seasons, Mourning Dove, God’s Man in Texas and Cotton Patch Gospel.