Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 22, 2024
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Shakespeare Does Scrooge: A Gift for (All) Your Houses

Driftwood Theatre rang in the holiday season with a fantastic performance at the Regent
<p>Driftwood Theatre&#8217;s production of William Shakespeare&#8217;s a Christmas Carol</p>
Driftwood Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s a Christmas Carol

We came, we watched, we carolled! Driftwood Theatre presented its delightful mash-up, William Shakespeare’s A Christmas Carol at the Regent this month to a full house more than ready to join in the fun.

Ian Doescher’s script recasts Dickens’s prose into Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, while maintaining the poignancy of the original. The action revolves, of course, around Ebeneezer Scrooge and the classic Christmas Carol story. In this Shakespearean version, Scrooge is a wealthy, yet miserly, theatre owner who is advised by the ghost of his departed partner, Marlowe, to change his ways or face the eternal consequences of his terrible behaviour.

Tasked with guiding Scrooge through his redemptive journey, the ghosts — Christmas Past (Puck), Christmas Present (Falstaff), and Christmas Yet to Come (King Hamlet) — strike notes both familiar and novel. The rest of the characters are familiar too, borrowed as they are from Shakespeare’s plays, including Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Tempest, Henry IV, Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Tom McCamus offered a perfect Scrooge in his Driftwood debut, while every actor had their standout moments in the multiple roles they played, popping up to deliver their lines with gravitas and mirth in equal measure. Driftwood founder and artistic director D. Jeremy Smith, in particular, was a delightful chorus/host.

Even though this was a staged reading, rather than a full theatrical performance, the cast and crew brought all they had. The simplicity of the staging allowed the audience to focus on the wordplay and the story’s emotional arc, and was still surprisingly dramatic, with smooth shifts in lighting and even some well-placed smoke. It was also clear the cast was having as good a time as the audience, and their delight and moments of outright laughter at each others’ performances lent an air of intimate improvisation to the evening. The sense of audience inclusion was for real: spectators were invited to join Driftwood’s professional performers in reading the play. The performance kicked off with a live auction of roles to audience members, including that of Tiny Tim. “If you want the last line in the play, it can be yours!” crowed the auctioneer.

In addition to raising funds for Driftwood’s productions, the auction was a teaser for those unfamiliar with the various plays incorporated into this production, and lifted the energy in the theatre, setting the tone for the rest of the show.

Musical interludes by the Rosy Ramblers were pitch-perfect punctuation — and, in some instances, punchlines — to the play’s poetic barbs. The pre-show and intermission visits with Santa for kids and adults alike created a festive, family-friendly atmosphere.

One highlight was the full audience joining the cast for a rousing rendition of a few bars of “Deck the Halls” toward the end of the play. And, as expected, Tiny Tim’s last lines brought down the house.

For the Dickens and/or Shakespeare purist, Doescher’s rewrite might be unsatisfying, in that it straddles both worlds while committing fully to neither. Thankfully, faithful renditions of A Christmas Carol and Shakespeare’s most popular plays abound. This staging was a fresh, fun, and lively rendition, supported by a stellar cast (audience included). And if the standing ovation at the end is any indication, this play, or perhaps a full staging of it, would be a welcome new holiday tradition between Driftwood, the Regent, and whoever’s in the theatre that night.

This text is from the Volume 193 No. 51 edition of The Picton Gazette
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