The Cultch Historic Theatre is presenting an evening of marionette madness with Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens featuring the cast of The Daisy Theatre. Starring Daisy Theatre’s past-her-prime diva Esmé Massengill in the Scrooge role, and a cavalcade of Daisy Theatre stars helping bring the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol to life…or to strings.
Toronto-based The Daisy Theatre is a one man, many marionette theatre company brilliantly performed and improvised by Ronnie Burkett. In the introduction Burkett states that “anything can happen” and over the course of the two hour show, anything does happen. The story loosely follows A Christmas Carol with a number of detours along the way to fit in some jazzy christmas carol sing-along numbers. Joining Burkett and the marionettes on stage are some audience helpers; Ava, William, Christopher and Caroline were ‘recruited’ throughout the performance to help out in various ways and roles. Helping Burkett from the booth, Crystal helped cue the music and lights, and in a couple of spots prompting what comes next in the play. Part of the fun of Little Dickens is not knowing what’s going to come out of the marionettes’ mouths and laughing along with Burkett when even he can’t believe that he said that. Plenty of laugh out loud moments fill the camp over-the-top scenes, accompanied by inside jokes about the theatre scene and Vancouver itself.
Even though we clearly know that Ronnie Burkett is pulling their strings the marionettes really do come to life and the audience buys into Esme’s character development, taking her from selfish, tacky, vain diva to charitable, tacky, slightly less vain diva.
Being an improvised show, anything really can happen and with the introduction of different audience members no two shows will be the same, so it’s a great treat to see over and over again during the pre-Christmas season. Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens : The Daisy Theatre runs until December 22, 2018 at The Cultch Historic Theatre. Find showtimes, information and tickets online at thecultch.com
This year, the Gateway Theatre holiday season takes a slightly darker tone as A Christmas Carol finds the Christmas spirit, or in this case four spirits. It’s hard to tinker with a tale as familiar as Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, but this adaptation by Michael Shamata, directed by Rachel Peake, trims the play into a show that’s manageable for all ages and focuses on the ensemble and core spirit of the work. All members of the creative team mention how they feel the play’s message of finding and sharing good with your fellow man is especially needed in these current times.
Allan Morgan begins the play as narrator, talking directly to the audience to set the stage for what is to come, and has led to the moment we meet Russell Roberts’ Ebenezer Scrooge and Adam Olgui’s Bob Cratchit at work on Christmas Eve. While the supporting characters are present, Peake has centred the production on the ghost story, and the message the spirits bring to Scrooge, starting with the eerie ghost of Jacob Marley bringing a warning to Scrooge of continuing his secluded, miserly way of life. The simple staging by Drew Facey allows the audience to fill in the blanks as the ghosts take Scrooge from his past to present and future.
The Gateway Theatre holiday show often serves as a mentorship to up and coming actors and stage crew. This production includes five members from the acting program at Langara College’s Studio 58, all playing multiple roles alongside the seasoned, professional players. At just 110 minutes, including intermission, the production is compact and conveys the spirit of the Holiday favourite in a way that the whole family can enjoy.