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by Rock Paper Scissors
(based on the book by Charles Dickens and
an idea by David C. Jones)
Arts Club Theatre Company
Granville Island Stage
1585 Johnston Street
December 1-31
604.280.3311 or 604.687.1644

The second theatrical Christmas Carol of the season is even more twisted than the hilariously wretched, faux-amateur version currently on at Pacific Theatre.  The Arts Club offers Scrooge and the rest of the familiar cast updated and improvised by five talented comic actors with significant help from the audience for a typical TheatreSports-style evening of very funny hits and not-so-funny misses.

The clever set is co-designed by director Michelle Porter and David C. Jones, whose original idea this was, first produced for the Rock Paper Scissors comedy group.  A screen that looks like an Advent calendar has sections that open to become doors, windows, Scrooge’s pop-out bed, and an oven where the Cratchits’ Christmas broccoli—the opening night audience’s suggestion to replace the turkey—is burnt.  

Peter New plays Charles Dickens himself. He sits with his laptop and, with fine comic flair, invites the audience to suggest a new profession for Mr. Scrooge (chicken plucking), a new location for his youthful date with the woman he might have loved (an oyster bar), a new malady for Tiny Tim (diarrhea), and more. The actors then have to incorporate these elements into subsequent scenes. 

John Murphy as Scrooge and Drew McCreadie as Cratchit took a while to get into the chicken-plucking groove. They were helped immensely by the props and sound departments, which work frantic wonders backstage. Within a few minutes of the suggestion, which they could not have known was coming, McCreadie entered with a feather boa.  When “plucked” to the recorded sounds of clucking and squawking, it revealed a rubber chicken!

Even funnier was McCreadie as Tim Horton, the audience’s nominee for the Ghost of Christmas Past. Quickly reappearing in hockey helmet, full hoser gear and coffee mug, he narrated his guided tour through Scrooge’s misbegotten past in clipped sentences ending with “eh.”

Murphy gets the most stage time as Scrooge, and he really earned his stripes in a sequence where he had to guess that, if he didn’t smarten up, he’d be bowling with an ice pick at Metrotown. Adorable Diana Frances, the show’s lone woman, also does a great job as the recurring love of Scrooge’s life.  The profession proposed for her on opening night was actress, and she pretentiously wove witty references to her trade throughout her dialogue. 

Various audience members recruited to become characters in the story ranged from numbing to delightful.  But of course every night will be different, and what works in one performance may fall utterly flat in another.

The remarkable skills of the real actors, including Jeff Gladstone, are reprised in the finale where they transform themselves into a rock band and perform a brand new carol, with lyrics created on the spot from the suggestions established throughout the evening.

And a merry chicken-plucking Christmas to you all!

Jerry Wasserman


last updated: Sunday, December 18, 2005 12:36 PM
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