It was an unusual scene Sunday night as a man I’ve come to know as one of the men at the top of Santa’s nice list acted awfully grinchy – besmirching Christmas and refusing to give nary a few cents to the men collecting for those in need.
It was so unlike the Malcolm Jenkins I knew, one of Prince Albert’s great givers, that I almost forgot to follow the script and read my lines.
It was, after all, just an act. And Jenkins’ performance was as well-crafted and convincing as I’ve seen as the jaded Ebenezer Scrooge.
I had always wanted to see the Jenkins act on stage, and now I have.
It was part of a virtual reading of a Prince Albert Christmas Carol, a local adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic put on by Odyssey Productions. The script combines one of the most well-known Dickens work with references and jokes that only a Prince Albert resident would understand.
And as Scrooge … errr, Jenkins … read, I began to sweat harder, and not just because of the old wool coat on my back and warm knitted toque on my head (I was, after all, playing a poor boy left alone in a cold, empty room on Christmas — my greatest accomplishment may well have been not giving away how much I was overheating in my warm apartment as I tried to look cold in a getup that has kept me toasty warm on some crisp Saskatchewan nights)
I was up — and in addition to playing as a cheery relative of the famous grump, I was also cast to appear as a younger version of the man himself.
I am no Malcolm, but I trusted that he would bring his characters to life, imbuing them with his famous energy so they would jump right out of the screen.
I wasn’t wrong. It was wise, I thought, to then focus on the characters themselves, and not on trying to do a version of that lovely accent. Which is how Scrooge goes from sounding like a Canadian kid who speaks like a mix between a prairie boy and big-city slicker to the proper gentlemanly patter we’ve grown used to from the man over at Canadian Tire.
Someone laughed as I read my lines, and not at me, but with my character.
Success, I thought.
I speak of Jenkins at lenghth mostly because I was watching him — that’s who I had to play off of, after all, that’s who I was to — without practice — pretend to be a younger version in this special virtual performance.
But he was far from the only impressive one to grace the screen that night. From Ryan Hughes injecting a healthy dose of humour into whoever he voiced, to Dr. Stan Oleksinski’s amusing and creative accoutrements, to Shona Stapleton’s wicked wigs, to Teena Monteleone’s Chameleon-like blending from character to character, to Roxanne Dicke’s depth as she took on persona after persona, to Adreanna Boucher’s vivacious Victorian getup to Kim Morall’s leadership and direction, it came together in a way unlike any performance of any kind I’ve participated in before (Kelly Taylor had technical difficulties and will record at a later date… so while I’m sure it will be fantastic, even I don’t know what that performance will look or sound like).
It was an usual challenge, — performance using naught but what’s in our own closets, done on computer screens in our own homes to keep everyone safe — but then again, what has been usual about 2020?
It was exciting to bring a character to life again, even if it was in a way I could never have imagined, and with shows having to postpone and cancel as COVID-19 ravages our already cold and lonesome winter, I dearly hope you take the time and the $5 to watch this creative contribution to the community.
It served as a fun distraction in a time when I needed it the most.
The show debuts — and ticket sales start — Saturday at 7 p.m. The link will be up for a few weeks, and once you buy a ticket at odysseyproductions.ca you will have 72 hours to watch the less-than two-hour show.
I’d like to thank Odyssey Productions for thinking of me, and I hope you take some time to relive a Christmas Carol, through Prince Albert’s eyes.