One actor, plus one 19th century castle and 17 characters equals one timeless Christmas experience.
This December, Craigdarroch Castle welcomes back Oak Bay actor Jason Stevens for his one-man production of A Christmas Carol.
The notion of presenting A Christmas Carol as a one-man show with no set to speak of (other than the 19th century backdrop that is Craigdrarroch Castle) is not unheard of. “Charles Dickens himself did it as a series of readings,” says Stevens, who first performed the show as a fundraiser to rave reviews, before bringing it to Craigdarroch.
A classically trained actor with roots in the Drama Centre of London and the footlights of New York City, Stevens moved to Oak Bay with his family a few years ago.
After several years of performing the timeless tale, he remains enthralled. As a story, “it’s perfect – it has a beginning, middle and end and it has an 11th-hour redeemed protagonist,” he says.
Dickens’ writing and larger-than-life characters, paired with Stevens’ ear for accents after years in the UK, make creating the characters relatively simple for the actor. Each has his or her own natural voice.
“The trick and the challenge and the fun of it … is to have 17 characters, each with their own tempo,” Stevens says.
Of those 17, favourites shift. “Each year I have a new favourite character,” he reflects, suggesting this year’s nod may go to the second ghost to visit Ebeneezer Scrooge. “I’ve always loved the Ghost of Christmas Present. He’s just such a good time.”
At the same time, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who with no dialogue creates a sense of foreboding of what will befall Scrooge should he not change his ways, also appeals to the actor.
(No surprise, Stevens is also a fan of ghosts generally, and can also be seen leading Discover the Past’s Ghostly Walks.)
Guests are invited to explore the castle before the show, weaving their way up the grand, central staircase to an upper floor room, an intimate space for the 75-minute tale of redemption that Stevens weaves before them.
“The whole place is a great set and by the time you ascend that staircase, you’re almost in a Victorian mindset. The two complement each other really, really well.”
As Stevens stands directly in front of the seated guests it creates a connection quite different from a traditional stage performance. “The most important thing is that the story happens for me and you get to watch it,” he says. “Because I have almost nothing to depend upon it’s basically weaving a spell,” he says. “It’s just really great to have the story happen – it never gets boring. It’s an absolute privilege.”
Stevens presents 17 performances of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol during this year’s run, continuing through Dec. 23.
Suitable for those age 13 and older, tickets are $20 or $18 for castle members and available online at thecastle.ca, by phone at 250-592-5323 ext. 31 or in person at Craigdarroch Castle, 1050 Joan Cres.