“God bless us, every one!”
That last line spoken by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ beloved novel, A Christmas Carol, is one that resonates to this day.
But what if the story was continued?
What if instead of a reformed Scrooge, it starred another Dickensian-like character, a female Oliver Twist, who with her imaginary friend is transported to the past, present and future to find out the true meaning of community and goodwill?
That’s what audiences will see, on the back of a horse-driven sleigh no less, when George F. Walker’s The Orphan’s Dream is presented at Caravan Farm Theatre for its 2016 winter sleigh-ride production.
“The Orphan’s Dream is really ambitious. It’s for the nerds and geeks out there as it is about time travel. It’s sort of Dickens meets Dr. Who,” said Estelle Shook, who is back to her old stomping grounds as Caravan’s interim artistic director while current AD Courtenay Dobbie is on maternity leave.
Also back at the farm to direct the show is Caravan’s other former AD Jennifer Brewin, who last worked with Shook at Caravan in 2009 to direct Martha Ross’ The Story, based on the nativity.
In 2011 and 2012, Brewin and Common Boots Theatre (formerly Columbus Theatre), where she now works as artistic director, re-staged The Story as part of an outdoor walking tour in the Evergreen Brick Works, located in the Toronto’s Don Valley.
The Orphan’s Dream is a co-commission between the two theatres, and Walker was enlisted to write the script.
“It’s the perfect storm,” said Brewin, who has directed other Caravan originals such as The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw for audiences out east. “George went on our walking tour of The Story… This is a full circle reunion with many of the crew who were associated with The Story working on this show.”
One of Canada’s most prolific playwrights, Walker is known for such TV dramas as This is Wonderland as well as for his six-part play cycle Suburban Motel among his 30 other stage scripts.
“Walker is a social critic, but he makes his points in a funny, witty and non-didactic way,” said Shook. “It’s very playful and serious in the same way Dickens could be both.”
The Orphan’s Dream follows a poor orphan named Claire (played by P.J. Prudat), who has no place in society. She is at a loss, has doubt and is powerless to make a change until she goes on a fantastical journey to find her lost brother, explains Shook.
Accompanied by her imaginary friend, Izzey (Natasha Greenblatt), who becomes real, Claire travels through time where she encounters hermits, magicians, dinosaurs and even old Ebenezer Scrooge himself (played by none other than Armstrong’s own George Young).
Also starring Sebastien Kroon and Jenny Wasko-Paterson in a variety of roles, The Orphan’s Dream is a time honoured Christmas story about personal transformation and social responsibility.
“It balances the human parity of poverty with our global capitalistic tendencies, which existed in Victorian times as much as they do today,” said Shook. “The play shows how empowering it is to find a community and to find a way to be a part of the world. It’s also quite dreamscapy.”
It also touches on the fear and anxiety that is happening around the world right now, added Shook.
“I believe playwrights have tapped into the zeitgeist of what’s happening in the U.S. and Europe today, where we have seen an ideological government voted in. Dickens talked about power and engagement and how to be a bold and brave citizen in the 20th century,” she said.
Getting ready to brave the elements of a Caravan winter outdoor production are not only the actors, but the technical crew, which includes set and costume designer Catherine Hahn, lighting designer Stephan Bircher and the builders, as well as the teamsters, who lead the horses in their artistic ballet, pulling audiences on sleighs.
Always a popular event, tickets for Caravan’s winter sleigh-ride production, Dec. 13 to 31, are going fast. Sleighs leave most nights at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Preview (Dec. 13 and 14) and early bird nights (Dec. 15 and 16) leave at 5 and 7 p.m. No shows Dec. 19, 24 and 25.
Tickets can be booked through the Ticket Seller. Call 250-549-7469 or reserve online at www.ticketseller.ca.