Oliver Dennis on A Christmas Carol
On his long performance history with Michael Shamata’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol:
Twenty (ish) years ago, Deb (Drakeford) and I went out to New Brunswick to do A Christmas Carol which was the second production of Michael Shamataʼs version, the one we do here. I felt a little too young to play Bob Cratchit…then. We then played it in London, ON a little while later when Michael became Artistic Director there. Both of those versions had Douglas Campbell as Scrooge. I have very strong memories of him playing the part. And for the past seven remounts at Soulpepper Joe Ziegler has created strong memories of as well. I’ve had several Mrs. Cratchits, too. Bev Cooper was my first. Followed by Danielle Wilson, Susan Coyne, Nancy Palk and, finally, my real wife, Deb Drakeford. Cratchit children have come and gone the first of who are in their late twenties! And some of whom have come from our theatre family. Henry Ziegler (Joe and Nancy’s youngest) played Tiny Tim and Peter, and Debʼs and my daughter played Martha a couple of times. It is very much a family affair, and some of the company have been together since the very beginning.
On tackling the role of Scrooge for the first time:
So, earlier I said I have very strong memories of both Joe and Douglas playing the part, which is a pretty good place to start. But, honestly, it is very daunting because both of their performances are so brilliant and powerful. Fitting in to a fully realized production is also a bit tricky but Joe has been unbelievably generous with his direction, giving me the benefit of his many years of experience with the role. I must say, I didn’t (and perhaps don’t) fully understand the power of the role until I started rehearsing it. The journey the old man takes is well known to everybody but no less remarkable for all that. And watching Jordan Pettle take on the part of Bob so brilliantly, a part I’ve been playing for so long, made me realize that there are many ways to play the same role.
On why audiences return to A Christmas Carol year after year:
I was watching rehearsal the other day, and this sense of magic descended on the hall…you know when you’re part of a wonderful story when everyone is working together on the same goal. I think audiences can see the connection of this cast who have been together for so long. And our version is neat because it’s a ghost story and this year Joe as our remount director is amplifying that aspect – it heightens the wonderfully eerie quality that is a big part of this story. And playing the show in the round makes it so immediate, everyone is so close, I think they feel an integrated part of the theatrical experience.
A Christmas Carol runs until Jan. 3 as part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival. Visit Soulpepper.ca/Family for tickets and more information.