Already an accomplished actor on both stage and screen, one Oak Bay teen gets to revisit a favoured character this holiday season. Ajay Parikh-Friese, 17, performs in the Belfry’s production of A Christmas Carol, running now to Dec. 20.
He first started acting in Grade 6, working with Kaleidoscope Theatre, landed a role on the Disney television show Mr. Young in Grade 8 and performed in four shows with Pacific Opera Victoria.
“I love rehearsals, just the atmosphere. I love the professionalism of it,” Parikh-Friese says. “I’m still a kid but theatre and screen acting are probably the places I’m treated the most as an adult. You’re treated not as a student but as an equal to everyone else.”
The Belfry Theatre will remount its acclaimed 2012 production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Belfry Artistic Director Michael Shamata. In the classic tale, over the course of one evening Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future, who soften his heart. Veteran actor Tom McBeath stars as one of literature’s most enduring characters, Ebenezer Scrooge. Parikh-Friese returns as Peter, a role he first took on with the Belfry as a Grade 9 student. Now in Grade 12 at St. Michaels University School, he enjoys the freedom of settling back into a role he knows well.
“I’m a more experienced actor so it’s cool to exercise that, but just playing with my reactions and … while you’re rehearsing you’re thinking about how you did it last time and how you did it yesterday. You know more about the play and how you played your character and how that was perceived,” he says. “It’s liberating in the sense that you can express a lot of things and you can try new things. You can experiment with new ways of portraying a character.”
About half the actors return from 2012, including McBeath and Jessica Hickman as the spirits.
“That whole dynamic between Scrooge and the ghosts, that’s a huge dynamic. It’s really cool in rehearsals to see they’ve tried some stuff differently than in the last show, but you can tell the chemistry between them,” says Parikh-Friese.
Aside from the three extra months of experience with the character, there’s a high comfort level with Shimata as returning stage manager and director.
“Michael Shimata’s adaptation is really, really incredible,” Parikh-Friese says. “When you see all the scenes in succession it really shows how much thought was put into the symbolism and the overall theme of the play which is ultimately love and discovering the good in yourself. His edition – it’s very acclaimed it’s been performed all over Canada – it’s the most magical I’ve seen, it’s highly relatable.
“Also there are a lot of cool effects, the lights and sound are done expertly; that just adds to it.”
Parikh-Friese is also a regular performer at Rifflandia with his folk pop band Close the Bombay Doors – currently in studio working on an album. While he enjoys time in the spotlight, the teen has no plans to pursue acting as a career, planning instead for post-secondary studies in mathematics.
“I definitely see performance in my future, probably not as a career though, not right away,” he says. “It would be excellent to do music as a career. I can see acting as a hobby and I know that I’ll always be doing some sort of performing.”
A Christmas Carol runs to Dec. 20 at the Belfry Theatre. Tickets range from $24 – $53 (plus GST) at 250-385-6815 or online at tickets.belfry.bc.ca.