Left – Byran Probets. Cover – Eugene Gilfedder. Photos – Stephen Henry
Whether you celebrate in the traditional sense or not, the Christmas season often fosters a sense of kindness, benevolence and reflection for many. A true example of the this is found in the classical moralistic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge – Dickens' tale A Christmas Carol has been adapted and retold many times over. shake & stir have thrown their hat in the ring and I can safely say – they did not disappoint!
A tale as old as the Christmas traditions we know and love, shake & stir's adaptation of A Christmas Carol transports the audience back to the Victorian era and we find ourselves amidst a stage with a dark, sooty, grimy feel. The audience is hushed by the sound of a fiddle and a string of carollers in the corner huddling over a fire drum. These same carollers are a multi talented cast that also act as collaborative narration throughout the story and with a quick change of scenery or costume are transformed into a new face and another person. Transformation seems to be a theme throughout the show – with the set transformed in a seamless swing of wheels, a drop of a screen, a whoosh of smoke or a spooky image appearing from out of nowhere. With the collaborative efforts of the design team of Josh Mcintosh, Jason Glenwright (lighting) Craig Wilkinson (video )and Chris Perren (sound) the stage plays as much a part of telling the story as the characters themselves. A cold, ominous feel sweeps through the room as the whispers fill the air. Smoke and screen effects are in play to spook Ebenezer (and you) as Jacob Marley warns the miser of his wicked ways. The use of effects and video have really done well to showcase where the team at shake & stir are taking this timeless classic and recreating it for a new contemporary audience. It uses the language of old with the technology of new and works wonderfully in a partnership to deliver this story of redemption.
Who doesn't know the cold sting of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge? His name creates an image to anyone who hears it, which for myself is the exact picture you see on the front of the program. Just this picture made me giddy with excitement for what was in store. Eugene Gilfedder is an excellent choice for the role, with all of the sharp tongued, quick wit and undeniable mean nature you expect from Scrooge. He is patronising with a sadistic twist of sarcasm. His grotesque and cruel nature offends all of the kind spirit we encompass at Christmas time and you can only snicker with sly delight when he is suffering from his 'cheese dream' induced visitation from the tormented soul of Jacob Marley. His tale is one of redemption though and so you feel as much power in his forgiving smile as you do in his damning sneer. With a small team of actors so many characters are portrayed in quick change it is hard to know who is who but all play so many vital roles in the telling of such a timeless classic.
The age old story shows Scrooge facing his spiteful nature and lack of Christmas spirit through his visitations by the very amusing Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. It gives insight in to the life he has led to bring him to his present nature and gives the audience a small sense of explanation for the actions of the present day Ebenezer – a man of misfortune, despite his actual fortune. Not always a miser, he begun as a lonely and friendless little boy, dejected by his father. A young man hopeful for the love of his family, a gentlemen who courts and loves a lady and then sadly, the Scrooge that stands at the window of Bob Cratchet's life and realises that he knows nothing outside his money hungry ways. The Ghost of Christmas Future is genuinely terrifying – never uttering a word. None need to be spoken to cast the shadow on old Scrooge's wicked ways and give a dire feel of the need to check your own shortcomings and pray you are not in fact a Scrooge yourself. A genuine fear many people have – who will mourn me when I leave? Scrooge is forced to see the world outside of his own bean counting brain as the eery faceless ghost silently points to where his path may lead him if life stays unchanged.
As mentioned before, transformation seems to be an underlying theme – whether it be the transformation of the stage, the actors or Scrooge's attitude but the most notable physical transformation was the character of Tiny Tim. A very clever use of props as they transform Scrooge's counting machine into the poor little fellow we all know. So much life and personality came from an inanimate object in just a shake and a stir (all pun intended). One finds themselves pulling at their heart strings as little Tiny Tim tries to sing a Christmas carol for his family. So many subliminal messages you have to sift through when watching the family 'feast' on their seemingly minuscule Christmas dinner. You should be caught asking yourself; are you thankful for the little pleasures or are you disappointed that you haven't got more? Are YOU a Cratchet or a Scrooge? The portrayal of this particular scene is heart warming and breaking at the same time. Well played, shake & stir.
The subtle flakes of snow that drifted down throughout the scenes were magical, even if not intentional. It gave a feeling of nostalgia and anticipation so when finally, Scrooge learns the errors of his ways, the falling snow washes away the sadness. A new Scrooge emerges and finds his salvation in the snow.
A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic and shake & stir have delivered a great adaptation that has kept the class and nostalgia of Dickens but introduced so many wonderful and subtle new elements it is sure to wow a crowd of any age or I'll be saying BAH HUMBUG!
shake & stir theatre co and QPAC present
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens | adapted and created by shake & stir theatre co
Director Michael Futcher
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Dates: 7 – 20 December 2018
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246