The locally renowned one-man-show is back for a tenth season at the famous Victorian mansion
The Victorian mansion stands on a hill overlooking the city, and on cold December nights wind wails up its old oak staircase and shakes at the stained glass windows. Actor Jason Stevens says the spooky setting of Craigdarroch Castle in the winter makes it the perfect place to tell a ghost story.
Showing for eight nights this Christmas season, A Christmas Carol at Craigdarroch Castle is an intimate telling that brings Dickensian characters and Victorian England to life. Now in its 10th year of performance, Stevens’ one-man production of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic has become an annual tradition for families across Greater Victoria and beyond.
“I really love the story and I love telling stories,” said Stevens in an interview with the Martlet, adding that this kind of performance is his favourite. “There’s no set, there’s no makeup, there’s no lights – it’s just the power of great words.”
Charles Dickens himself used to perform live readings of A Christmas Carol across Europe and North America. Stevens explains that he had a copy of a book full of Dickens scripts and that he added to it after studying the celebrated novel to create a longer show.
At first, Stevens performed the tale for a fundraiser at his daughter’s school. The show was a hit, and after presenting it for a time at retirement homes he felt confident in approaching the Castle.
“There were maybe 10 or 12 people a night,” he said about those first shows at Craigdarroch Castle. “Now it’s 10 years later and it’s 40 people, 50 sometimes. Pre-Covid it was up to 60. And it sells out every single seat, every single night and I do two shows a night. People go mad for it.”
With the pandemic cancelling the live show last year, Stevens feels people are hungry for it this season. He says although he performed through Zoom last year, it wasn’t the same as having an in-person audience to feed off of.
“I get to make eye contact with people while I tell them the story. It’s an intimate setting and it feels kind of exclusive,” he said.
Stevens was trained at the prestigious Drama Centre in London, England where he learned a method of acting called movement psychology. After living and working in New York City for 13 years as an actor, Stevens moved to Oak Bay to raise his family. He now also teaches movement psychology at the Victoria Academy of Dramatic Arts.
“Each character has a tempo, and each character has a specific objective,” he said of this acting method. “As long as you inhabit that and allow that to come up forward, people get it, people understand it.”
Stevens also performs other shows at the Castle. Most recently he told the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in October and plans on performing another one-man-show in the spring.
The crowd for A Christmas Carol, however, brings the intimacy of holiday traditions and, for Stevens, the chance to tell the classic tale to a sold out audience.
“The castle … is basically a howling wind instrument on windy nights,” said the actor. “And it is a ghost story, so having a spooky old castle, what could be better?”
Stevens will perform two shows per night at Craigdarroch Castle on December 11, 15-18, and 22-24. COVID-19 restrictions at the Castle require that visitors wear masks indoors and show their proof of vaccination. The event is recommended for ages 13 and above. There are also accessibility restrictions, see the website for more details and to book tickets.