We’ve talked a lot about the incredible young talent gracing Townsville’s stages this year, but Townsville Little Theatre’s current production of A Christmas Carol proves there’s plenty to be said for those who’ve been ‘round the block a few times, too!
The show follows Charles Dickens’ timeless novel and the story of the cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by four ghosts in the night (always a good one to remember for trivia – most people forget Marley!) who come to show him the errors of his ways through Christmases past, present and future.
The performance is carried artfully by Stephen Smith as the humbug-come-heartfelt Scrooge and Eric Blyth who masterfully narrates the show as Dickens himself. Both Eric and Stephen occupy the stage for the entire show – a demanding ask of any actor – and they hold their characters beautifully thoughout it all.
As Dickens, Eric is strong, confident and dramatic where it counts, but there’s also an element of softness to his performance that is perfectly suited to the show’s ‘story-time’ context.
Stephen exhibits a diverse array of acting chops as Scrooge’s epiphany unfolds throughout the story, and it’s a delight to see him evolve from the penny-pinching, bah-humbugging bean-counter; to a vulnerable old man recoiling in fear at the sight of the first spirit; and finally to a generous and joy-filled repentant. While Stephen delivers some big moments throughout the show, where he really shines is in the small spots – babbling and blubbering to himself as he dons a dressing gown or checks for intruders – these are the small, convincing additions that build Scrooge’s character as a lonely old man.
There is also a tremendous cast of bit-players in this show and special mention is deserved of Pamela Garrick and Marguerite Wesselinoff’s coffin-robbing ‘Old Women’; Bob Hinds’ Bob Cratchett who endeared himself to me from the very first scene as he blissfully warmed his backside beside Scrooge’s fire; Reynold Lookamp as The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come who, with only a hand showing beneath a hooded robe and no dialogue, still managed to speak volumes; Jeremy Naughton as the true humbug, Old Joe; Zhane Walker as the gradually hardening Young Scrooge; and, of course, Cooper Kruss as Tiny Tim who, when he delivered the one line the entire audience had come to hear, elicited thunderous applause.
Christine Scott has beautifully directed this play, and her decision to have the chorus lead the audience in Christmas carols during scene transitions was a stroke of brilliance. Glenn Shield, Steven Newitt, Alex Moloney and Tina Hsieh have collaborated beautifully on set design, construction and sound & lighting to move the narrative through space and time seamlessly.
I was worried that this would be a stale show – A Christmas Carol has been retold and repackaged more times than my great Auntie May has been caught regifting – but Townsville Little Theatre has done a beautiful job of reviving a tired tale by honouring its origins and keeping it classic. It was wonderful to see a number of kids in the audience – though some of the Dickensian language did invite an audible “This is boring” from one young on-looker, and a number were also quite spooked by the appearance of Jacob Marley (Dylan Megaw).
I wouldn’t recommend this show for very young audiences, but anyone over 10 is sure to leave the theatre full of festive spirit and holiday joy. This is a great way to put yourself in the Christmas mindset.
Catch Townsville Little Theatre’s A Christmas Carol at Pimlico Performing Arts Centre tonight and tomorrow, with tickets available here or at the door.