There’s plenty to enjoy in this year’s Chemainus Theatre holiday season offering: A Christmas Story.
Just ask the show’s director Ian Farthing, who’s happy to be back in Chemainus.
“This is my second Christmas show here but my first as a director. I was in Christmas Carol in 2010. There’s something about this season that fills you with warmth, and this story in particular, has that quality, because it’s such an iconic one, it’s such a joy to work on.”
We all know the famous film, but Farthing did not.
“Interestingly, I had not seen the movie before I started working on this. Normally, I don’t watch the movie of a play that I’m going to direct because I don’t like to be influenced by anybody else. But because this is such an iconic Christmas story I figured I should watch this one because there are going to be moments in this story that the audience are going to want to see,” he said.
We didn’t want to give away any secrets but we had to know: does a tongue get stuck to a frozen lamp post? Is there a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg?
“Yes, and you’ll get to hear, ‘You’ll shoot your eye out’, too, “ he shared.
Farthing’s enjoyed getting in the holiday mood by preparing this cast.
“It’s been such a lovely journey of discovery for me, to experience this story for the first time now. This is such an easy story to fall in love with,” he said.
“We have a wonderful bunch of kids, all local. There are seven of them, aged between eight and 12. It’s the first time I’ve directed a show with that many kids in it; the kids outnumber the adults. That’s been a fun experience, too.”
Brin Slydell plays young Ralphie.
“This is my debut on a professional stage so I’m quite excited and nervous at the same time. I’m proud to be playing Ralphie. Practically everyone I know is saying: ‘Oh, I’m going to come and see that’,” he said.
“This isn’t my first-ever show. I did quite a few shows when I was in pre-school,” he said, but pointed out that professional theatre is different.
“Everything’s got to be on time. Everything’s got to be ready because opening night’s just a week or two away. It’s harder than I thought.”
He also shared a problem many of us will understand.
“I don’t get too much sleep, which makes it difficult,” he said, and Brian Linds, laughing, agreed, saying, “Neither do I.’
Linds is playing Ralphie Senior/Jean Shepherd the author.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this production. I watched it when it first came out. I had a VHS copy of the movie and I would even take it with me when I went on the road. I remember showing it to my family once when I was on a tour in Stratford; they loved it.
“It’s such an iconic Christmas movie but it’s not sugary sweet. There’s a little bit of a bite to it. And to get a chance to play this character, Jean Shepherd, who wrote the words of it, the original, well, it’s exciting to play it,” he said.
“I think audiences will love this. Even if they haven’t seen the movie they’re going to love the story, because it’s great. It’s very comical, the characters are really unusual. They have a kid that eats oatmeal by sticking his head in the bowl, there are dogs chasing only the dad all the time. They are just a lot of funny things that happen. It’s also about memory. The character of Ralph that I play is looking back and remembering. It’s a childhood everyone has had: the things people remember from having Christmas with their families.”
Farthing’s goal for the show is to offer “something warm, loving and accepting” in a world that needs it.
“I want audiences to leave with smiles on their faces and maybe a misty tear in their eyes. Not every family is perfect. This family in this play isn’t perfect but the final scene with them all coming together: love is the key.”
He loves the cast he’s working with.
“All four of the adults are regulars here. The audience will recognize them. It’s been tricky for Brian Linds because he was just in Hilda’s Yard and he’s been doing double duty for the last couple of weeks. And he’s also done the beautiful sound scape for this show. He’s been working his butt off. But, he’s a naturally gifted storyteller; he’s a no-brainer choice for that role. The other three have all worked here at different points, too, in musicals or plays. Sarah Carle, who’s playing the mom has only been in musicals here before and is excited about this,” he said. “I think it’s just the perfect Christmas show for Chemainus.”