Review: Theatre Orangeville’s Christmas Carol – the Beattie Blend

December 9, 2021   ·   1 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

So exciting to have Rod Beattie back on stage, this time giving us A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, as only Mr. Beattie can do it. A Christmas Carol is on now and runs until December 23.

Brace yourselves for this fabulous delivery: Mr. Beattie performing solo as he has done many times on Theatre Orangeville’s main stage, takes on the whole creation of Scrooge in the days of Victorian England, at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. He creates this all for us, alone on the stage but for his – and our – imaginations.

A dark figure on a sombre set of simple risers and a couple of stools leads the audience through this most famous of ghost stories with a sublime mix of grouchiness, fear, a painful journey – and a Christmas miracle. The artistry is all, for the Narrator is the pivot of this soulful tale: he tells the story in exactly Dickens’ words, Mr. Beattie having “collaborated” with the Victorian author to condense the work into a 75- minute one act play.

In his adaptation of the book, Mr. Beattie decided to give the Narrator a central part in the play, while reducing the dialogue, parting from the usual movie format. The Narrator is a Canadian and the other persons in the play are British. He has had some fun developing these voices – see if you can pin point Sir John Gielgud.

Doug Beattie has stuck closely to Dickens’ writing of Scrooge and to most of the characters whose story it is as well, their interplay with Scrooge and each other as the plot moves amongst them.

A synopsis of A Christmas Carol for readers unfamiliar with it, it is a tale told about a miserly, money-grasping old man, Scrooge, whose long life’s experience has taught him badly about what matters: that is only his business and his profits. The wealth and well-being of others is a humbug to him as is the idea of Christmas itself, about which his only comment is that it “[keeps] a man from doing business.”

Seven years ago, this very Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s partner, Marley died and in due course, Scrooge moved into his apartment and inherited all their mutual business assets.

Having most begrudgingly agreed to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, “I suppose you’ll want the whole day off tomorrow.” and having partaken of a meagre meal in a local restaurant, Scrooge returns to his own place ­– but wait! From the moment he touches his own door, nothing is ever the same again for Scrooge.

He suffers a visit from Marley’s ghost and further, a tour of his own life under the guidance of three more ghosts whose “soul” mission is Scrooge’s reclamation.

Mr. Beattie had assured us during our preview conversation that he has a different take on the ghosts but has “kept the content intact; there is nothing in this that would seem strange to Dickens.”

His claim has every virtue, for those of us who love the story and never omit watching the Alister Sims’ 1951 movie version from our Christmas tradition, must agree entirely that Rod Beattie’s adaption of A Christmas Carol is remarkable and very satisfying.

Remarkable is Mr. Beattie’s unfailing talent for transporting himself into each character even for a brief few phrases, then just as magically adapting the cloak of another, never missing a beat, making it perfectly clear who is who. 

“An honest version,” Rod Beattie has promised.

Satisfying is the thoroughness with which the show evolves, the timing, the authenticity, the humour. Dickens is telling a highly moral tale but his humour is irrepressible and Mr. Beattie lets it shine.

It is completely fair to recall and entice audiences to attend this show by reminding them that Rod Beattie is the genius who has portrayed everyone in Dan Needles’ Wingfield series of plays (and we hope he will again). Still and all, it is this writer’s job to note that A Christmas Carol is quite a contrast from Walt Wingfield and the country folk that are part of his gentleman farmer’s life.

A Christmas Carol is one of the most skillfully written ghost stories ever told. It balances truly chilling moments with keeping the watcher enthralled and hopeful, yet it is dark and then joyfully mysterious.

Rod Beattie’s stage magic is the bond between the two diverse entertainments.

One shout-out this reviewer would like to make: on opening night when there would normally a reception with goodies, beverages and congeniality, these are still suspended by Covid but Lavender Blue provided each of the audience with very generous “goodie bags,” including gift certificates. With a thank you to them, this once again shows how sincere is the support and love for Theatre Orangeville and all it means to the people of this town.

Please rush to buy your tickets to see this wonderful piece of theatre, keeping in mind that Theatre Orangeville is still running only at 40 per cent capacity. The show will become available online but sources told us there is a wait for equipment to make that happen. As soon as we are notified that digital is available, we will publish the details.

Don’t forget to buy lots of 50/50 tickets to help replace the loss of the fundraising power of the second cancelled Victorian Christmas Gala and to have a chance to win, of course.

Meanwhile, for more information and to order tickets, check out the website or call those pleasant people at the box office at 519-942-3423 or toll free at 1-800-424-1295

Readers Comments (1)

  1. jeff wilson says:

    Very disappointed in this over priced version of a Christmas carol, the main character or should I say only character in this show does not even bother to get into costume, he comes on wearing regular clothes, poor stage with no props or any kind of background effects. This is merely an audio book being told live, apart from opening the doors to the theater, turning on the lights and a handful of staff, no money was spent. Very disappointed and would not recommend. My wife and I left 30 minutes into the show


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