Magic of the season captured

Escape from the stress and excess of the holiday season with a magical ride at Caravan Farm Theatre.

Magical gift: A childless family’s wishes are answered in The Gift Horse

Escape from the stress and excess of the holiday season with a magical ride at Caravan Farm Theatre.

Visitors will be transported through space and time in The Gift Horse, this year’s edition of the theatre’s family friendly winter show.

Hailed as one of the country’s national treasures, Caravan Farm Theatre has been entertaining audiences from near and far since 1978, with Christmas shows added to the slate in 1989.

“The Christmas show usually has some kind of journey aspect because the sleighs take the audiences from scene to scene,” says artistic director Courtenay Dobbie. “You really have no idea where you are. You get whisked away and let the teamsters and staff take care of you.”

The show is based on an ancient Japanese folk tale, Dobbie unearthed 18 months ago. It is the story of a childless couple who is unable to conceive.

In a moment of despair, the moon enters their kitchen and offers them one of her own children on the condition that the couple must give her back when she turns 18.

The mother accepts the child with love and delight, but the father is resistant because he knows he will eventually lose her. He resists giving his heart away, much like Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Dobbie says she wanted to tie in the Japanese folk tale aspect with the theme of the old adage – never looking a gift horse in the mouth.

“We have limited time in this world with people, objects, animals, all the things we hold dear to us,” she says, noting her belief in the need to use our time wisely. “The message is ‘Love.’ It is the classic Christmas tale of love and redemption.”

There are only five actors in The Gift Horse – professionals who include Toronto’s Adam Underwood, Tim Machin, Rachael Johnston and Agnes Tong, and Sarah May Redmond from Vancouver.

The audience may only see a few faces, but they are backed by an army of behind-the scenes workers –  set designers, technical directors, props designer, carpenters, stage managers, production assistants, costume designers and mistresses, and the crew who take charge of the props and costumes, musicians, teamsters and horses during the show’s run.

“They’re all very talented  and the costumes, setting and props are stunning,” Dobbie says, noting an emphasis is always placed on using Caravan’s 80 acres of rolling farmland to best advantage.

Eight teams of horses, both Belgians and Percherons will transport the audience from scene to scene – on sleighs if mother nature delivers some snow, or on bumpier wagon rides as the alternative.

All told there will be 25 horses this year, adding to the winter holiday feel as they stamp and snort steam in the cold night air.

Also adding to the holiday decor will be one of the farm’s 60-ft. trees that has been decorated with lights from top to bottom and beautiful Japanese decorations made by volunteers.

Dobbie advises audience members to dress warmly and take a “traveller” mug in which to put their purchases of coffee or hot chocolate and Baileys, hot apple cider or apple cider with rum. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available for the younger set, as are cookies.

The Gift Horse rides out at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. from Dec. 10 to 31, preview shows take place Dec. 10 and 11 at 6 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 13 at 4 and 6 p.m. Tickets for preview shows are $22. There are no shows Dec. 19, 24 and 25.

Tickets for other performances are $20 for children 12 and under, $31 for students and seniors 65-plus and $35 for adults.

Dobbie recommends ordering tickets soon as more than 4,200 tickets have already sold. Reserve your tickets by contacting Ticket Seller at 1-866-311-1011 or reserve online at


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