The Belfry Theatre presents its take on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens this holiday season, adapted and directed by the Belfry’s artistic director, Michael Shamata.
I have fond memories of A Christmas Carol. In elementary school, my grade six class put on our own adaptation in the school gymnasium. My best friend won the coveted role of Ebenezer Scrooge, acting his 11-year-old heart out as he channelled the humbug-happy misanthrope. Our teacher also used the story to instill the real meaning of Christmas in her students: charity.
Shamata’s adaptation of the timeless story stays fairly true to the original novella, which was written in 1843 in response to the social ills of Victorian English culture.
“I think people know roughly what happens in the story, but this play really explores the original — there are probably scenes in the original novella that we capture in this show but that haven’t made it into any of the other dozens of film or TV versions,” writes Belfry publicist Mark Dusseault by email.
Shamata has added a narrator and sprits to ease transitions between scenes, but presenting a contemporary version of the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future wasn’t needed. “The themes in the show are universal and timeless. We wanted to do this as a period piece, and there was no need to modernize it,” writes Dusseault.
Audiences will be sure to recognize key characters amongst the large cast of 14, including Scrooge himself, Jacob Marley, Mr. Fezziwig and Tiny Tim.
The Belfry has partnered with the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) to expand the play-going experience. For the last two weeks of November, cast members and local history experts will be giving free talks at four GVPL branches, focusing on Dickens, the time in which he lived and, of course, A Christmas Carol. Dusseault believes learning about Dickens and when he lived deepens audience members’ understanding of the play.
“People are surprised at how much [the] play resonates with them after they have learned about the play or the time period in which it takes place,” he writes. “Plays really are universal, and once you scratch the surface of a piece, you almost always find something that touches some aspect of your own life right now. That’s always been the beauty of theatre.”
The Belfry crew hopes to make A Christmas Carol an annual Victoria tradition. Dickens’ classic holiday tale exemplifies the story of redemption and the importance of reaching out to one’s fellow human beings; not only at Christmas, but also all year long. And there’s no better way to be reminded of Christmas’s true meaning than through the magic of stage.
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 13 – Dec. 16
Show times vary
Tickets: $21–$33.60 (students with ID)
Greater Victoria Public Library Talks
(all beginning at 12 p.m.)
Goudy Branch: Nov. 20
Central Saanich Branch: Nov. 22
Esquimalt Branch: Nov. 27
Juan de Fuca Branch: Nov. 29