As sure as Jacob Marley is dead, Campbell House is not a theatre. City of Toronto Records, countless lawyers who occupied the place as a club and visitors to its current use as a museum, will attest that there is no doubt that Campbell House in the 200 years since it was constructed has not been and is not a theatre.
But the Three Ships Collective, supported by Soup Can Theatre, have disregarded all historical records and irrefutable knowledge by staging Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol in Campbell House again and again.
If you can get a ticket, you will have given yourself the perfect Christmas present.
This is a mobile production in which the audience of about 30 people moves from room to room in the House to watch different parts of the marvellous performance. We start in a room in the basement where there are seats for all the audience and we meet the ghost of Jacob Marley who will act as our host and guide to the rooms of the House where parts of the play will be performed.
He introduces the mean-spirited and hateful Scrooge (acted by Thomas Gough in a powerful performance) as the skinflint miser who mistreats his faithful employee Bob Cratchit and is ready to evict people on Christmas day.
Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Christopher Lucas) drops by to wish his uncle Merry Christmas and invite him for dinner. He is given short and unpleasant shrift. A couple of gentlemen played by Jim Armstrong and Kat Letwin, come to Scrooge’s office collecting money for the less fortunate and he throws them out unceremoniously.
The very polite Marley leads us to another room in the House where we stand against a wall and Marley gives Scrooge the lowdown about the visitors that he is about to get. We know that there are three: The Spirit of Christmases past (Cihang Ma), the Spirit Christmas Present (Kat Letwin) and the one of Christmases Yet to Come (Melissa McGoogan).
We are taken to different rooms and visit Scrooge’s childhood, see him as a young man in love who turns greedy after the death of his wonderful employer, Mr Fezziwig (Jim Armstrong).
Marley leads us to the entrance hall of the house, to a room on the second floor, followed by a bedroom. We visit the Cratchit family twice. Once when they are poor but happy and again in the end when they are on the verge of catastrophe but are saved but Scrooge’s transformation and generosity.
All the rooms are almost without furniture except for a few chairs in some of them. This is mobile theatre.
There is a violinist, (Cihang Ma) who plays pieces by Pratik Gandhi and we hear a rousing rendition of “Here We Stand A-Caroling) with Lyrics by Justin Haigh and music arranged by Pratik Gandhi
Dickens’ story has been adopted for performance by Justin Haigh. He is faithful to the story with the necessary changes needed for this production. It works very well. He is also an assistant director.
Sare Thorpe directs and co-produces with Haigh and their efforts provide a delightful and completely unexpected version of A Christmas Carol in a most unusual setting.
The movable settings to different rooms of Campbell House where for most of the time the audience stands in a small crowd provide an intimacy that is almost impossible to imagine in a larger theatre. The cast of a dozen actors most of who take on two or more roles seamlessly give outstanding performances. They are a joy to watch at a short distance from us in a show that is simply magical, non-gimmicky and a resounding credit to the director and the actors.
It is 85 minutes of phantastic theatre in an unorthodox setting that works perfectly.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Justin Haigh in a production by Three Ships Collective with the support of Soup Can Theatre, continues until December 23, 2022 at Campbell House Museum, 160 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 3H3