John D. Huston, an actor we have seen many times before in Ottawa and who is in the habit of performing solo, is back in the city with a most beautiful evening of theatre within theatre. He literally becomes Charles Dickens, whisks us back to the 19th Century and plays Dickens the actor as he would have performed his own novella. It is a great pleasure to behold this writer who transforms himself into the various voices from his text. because who more than he, would be so acquainted with these characters? He not only imitates them, he transforms his face and body into those who are talking, he even creates a vocal sound scape: the ringing of the bells, the rattling of Marley’s chains, the howling of the wind, the noises that set the stage for the arrival of those ghostly creatures who scare poor Scrooge to death.
As a fellow who is trained in the melodramatic acting techniques of his day, Dickens makes everything seem larger than life, more intense than realistic thus emphasizing the underlying gothic horror of the text, even bringing us closer to something that Edgar Allan Poe might have written since they were contemporaries.
This text represents the version that was cut down from the original three hour performance text, but augmented from the hour version we saw several years ago at the Manotick Fringe festival.
Unfortunately I was not feeling well, do not blame the actor please, and I had to leave after the first hour. The show continues for a total of about 2 hours but what I saw was most exciting..as this magnificent actor created a whole world around him, established a clear physical and pyschological image of the miser Scrooge as well as a vivid portrait of his colleague Jacob Marley and the first meeting we had with Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit, who was shivering in the cold of that badly heated office.
The evening was dotted with musical performances by a trio called Finest Kind, singing music of the period , mostly a cappella but also accompanied by an accordion. The music completed the authenticity of Dickens” acting performance, confirming the impeccable work done by this unique actor who was able to tell a story by becoming much more than a simple narrator, he incarnated the voices and all the effects that brought to life this fictional world. and made us part of that period audience .
A perfect seasonal outing for adults on a chilly night, a chance to see the work of a truly great actor working as the author/actor of a great text! You wont regret it. Bring your glass of wine into the theatre, settle down in your seat and enjoy this event of a rare quality in our local theatres.
A Christmas Carol with John D. Huston, plays at The Gladstone Theatre until December 23.