By Janis la Couvee
The weather may be dark and gloomy but for Victoria theatre companies, the winter holiday season is one that celebrates creativity and community. There are events to suit all audiences, from traditional to contemporary, for young and old alike, during the entire month.
Leading the list are productions of A Christmas Carol—three, no less. The fully staged version opens November 30th at the Belfry Theatre. CBC radio personalities will perform a reading as a fundraiser for Our Place on December 14. At Craigdarroch Castle, bedecked in traditional decorations recalling Victorian-era seasonal splendor, local actor Jason Stevens stages a one-man version of the classic that Dickens himself used to tour (December 15-23).
The Belfry’s Michael Shamata says “the story is remarkable; it speaks to everyone regardless of culture” and he points out “people like having a tradition; it’s great for families to go to together.”
More recently, staged radio plays with live foley (sound effects) have become popular. Brian Richmond (Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre) says “the Radio Play Series is what, most authentically, lives up to the word “repertory” in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. With the addition of Andrew Bailey’s new adaptation of Shop Around The Corner, BBRT now has four classic radio plays in its repertoire that its highly talented acting ensemble can perform at any time. This year they will be performing their perennial favourite It’s A Wonderful Life alongside Shop Around The Corner from December 14-17.
A more recent addition is Radio, Mistletoe and My Man Godfrey, adapted by Launch Pad Theatre’s David Radford and presented at Craigdarroch Castle December 27-31. The company’s Christina Patterson states “There is something very special about the opportunity to visit a bygone era of Christmas celebrations. To sit and enjoy a lively Christmas adaptation of a 1930’s radio-play is a wonderful experience that anyone in the family can share; the timing is perfect for families to entertain their children or out of town guests during the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”
Pantomimes are quintessentially English with hundreds being presented around that country during the holiday season. In Victoria Peter Pan adapted by Stephen Andrew for Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People joins two community theatre productions—Cinderella at St Luke’s Players and Sleeping Beauty at The Peninsula Players. Designed to be accessible for children as well as adults with ample audience participation, Andrew’s version will include many local notables and topical references. With a cast of thirty five and the beautiful stage at the McPherson Playhouse he is sure there will be “razzle dazzle” for everyone. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the theatre.”
For a fun (and bloody) twist on holiday traditions Paper Street Theatre is studying the zombie genre to prepare for Z-Mas, an Improvised Zombie Movie (December 6-16). Company founder Dave Morris says “Non-Traditional holiday offerings are exactly what people need during the holidays to take a break and escape the pressures of the season.”
And to many Victorians, no end-of-the-year would be complete without the acclaimed Atomic Vaudeville New Year’s Cabaret (December 29, 30, & 31) with the last show featuring the celebration of New Year’s through the time zones — sometimes stopping a scene half way through – as well as a dance party and champagne toast at midnight. With all that’s on offer, why not start a holiday theatre tradition of your own?