Regular visitors to the Canberra Theatre Centre, Queensland’s Shake & Stir Theatre Company’s forte is innovative re-imaginings of literary classics. Particularly memorable among them, 1984, Animal Farm, Dracula, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
This spectacular production of A Christmas Carol was premiered in Brisbane in 2018, and since then has become something of an annual favourite with Brisbane audiences, where it’s been seen by over 100,000 people. Now having its first Canberra showing, it’s not difficult to see the attraction.
Adapted by Nelle Lee, and directed by Michael Futcher, this version of A Christmas Carol offers a particularly optimistic version of the Charles Dickens classic.
Josh McIntosh has designed a towering architectural setting, which with the help of the cast, sweeps around the stage, constantly transforming into Christmas card images of Victorian London, as it propels the storyline through the many scenes.
Swirling fog, fluttering snowflakes, Christmas trees, holly wreaths, Christmas turkey, Christmas pudding, and of course carol singers, are all there.
Atmospheric projections and even holographic three-dimensional ghosts, dazzle the eyes, while the apparently huge cast engage the intellect enacting the familiar story of how the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge finally discovers the joy of Christmas.
It comes as quite a shock at the end of the show, when the actors take their bow, to realise that there are only ten of them.
As the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Eugene Gilfedder gives masterly a performance of Shakespearean proportions. At times funny, serious, terrified or imperious, he dashes up and down revolving staircases, dodges visions that disintegrate before his eyes, then finally and convincingly converts into a kindly and generous employer.
Bryan Probets fascinates in a variety of roles including Scrooge’s creepy nemesis, Jacob Marley, while Will Carseldine, Judy Hainsworth, Nick James, Arnijka Larcombe-Weate, Nelle Lee, Nick Skubij, and Lucas Stibbard play everybody else.
Musician Tabea Sitte is a constant and effective presence throughout as she wanders through scenes providing live accompaniment for the carollers and haunting atmospheric background music elsewhere.
Although sound balance issues at this performance meant that much of the dialogue was unintelligible, only a Gringe could leave the theatre without being enchanted by the ingenious performances and magical effects on display in this masterly production.
A Christmas Carol
Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Tuesday 20 December 2022
Season continues to 24 December 2022
Information and Bookings: www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au
Image: A Christmas Carol – photo by David Fell
Review: Bill Stephens OAM