DECEMBER 2022 | Volume 222
Sanjay Talwar. Photo credit Jam Hamidi.
Surely, the single most ubiquitous theatre title at Christmas, every Christmas, is A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ classic ghost story of miserliness, humbuggery, terror and repentance never seems to go out of style. And it appears to be infinitely adaptable. One reason it keeps coming back is that you hardly ever see the same adaptation twice.
I’ve seen a dozen or more different productions over the years, but as familiar as the story may be, the Firehall’s current production, from Victoria’s Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, gave me new perspectives on Scrooge’s journey through his own miserable life and out the other side. And not just because this is the first one-man Christmas Carol I’ve seen.
Stratford and Shaw Festival veteran Sanjay Talwar not only plays all the parts without changing costumes or exiting the stage. He also narrates the text: “’Bah! Humbug,’ said Scrooge.”It’s not at all a show-offy performance. Talwar has terrific energy and the ability to embody all the different characters with just slight changes of intonation and body language. His ghosts also benefit from echoing amplification provided by sound designer Alex Wlasenko, who also provides the subtle music.
But as narrator, Talwar gives this adaptation an additional dimension: details of the physical context missing from most theatricalizations. For example, he tells us about the atmosphere—the cold and fog, the gloom and dreariness of Scrooge’s apartment. One of the unwritten rules of theatre is to show rather than tell. But by combining the showing in his embodiment of the characters with the telling of details in Dickens’ story, Talwar gives us a very satisfying hybrid.
It’s a pleasure watching this fine actor shape the tale and grow the character of Scrooge as the evening progresses. Credit to director Jacob Richmond, too, for finding regular moments of humour along with the chilling ghost story elements. Talwar is as good a comic actor as he is in the dramatic sections. His transformation of Scrooge at the end from despair to his new exhilarating sense of humanity is a joy to watch.It’s easy to be cynical about A Christmas Carol: the idealized Cratchit family, the virtuous poor, the sentimentality of Tiny Tim’s salvation and Scrooge’s, too. But once a year, it’s nice to be able to believe in the triumph of goodness. And what better time than now.
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