If you’re looking for a laugh this holiday season, look no further than Little Dickens on at Canadian Stage’s Berkley Street Theatre. Ronnie Burkett and the marionette cast of the Daisy Theatre bring Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to life with a hilarious, improvised take on the classic tale. Definitely not for kids but for the kid-at-heart, Little Dickens is a scrumptious holiday delight.
This was my first time attending a Daisy Theatre production and they’ve certainly made a life-long patron out of me. Not only are the marionettes themselves incredible to behold, the way the Burkett is able to control and maneuver them to have the slightest and most detailed movements is absolutely mind-blowing. Several patrons were discussing this as we filed out of the theatre, which is a perfect indication of just how impressive Mr. Burkett’s skills are.
I absolutely love that the story is improvised; it means that every new audience gets a new experience, but with the same story at its core. His wit and charm shine through every moment of the performance; there were times I could barely catch my breath before the next joke started. One of my favourite lines from Esmé Massingill was when she was approached about donating to out of work actors, she replies “are there no dinner theatres?” I think I missed the next line because I was howling with laughter. It’s such a perfect mix of Esmé’s theatre diva nature and the source text and I just loved it. The whole production is full of smart, funny jokes like this. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.
Burkett’s Daisy Theatre is comprised of 56 cast members (marionettes), and many of them are cast in Little Dickens. I love that Burkett introduces us to each one by name and then what role they’re playing, and each character has their own unique voice and mannerisms. But not only that, some of the characters have several iterations just in this production as they require costume changes, and therefore entirely different marionettes. You simply have to see this amazing feat for yourself, it’s a marvel to watch Burkett work and tell his stories using so many different characters.
Little Dickens also had some hilarious moments of audience participation. Burkett does a spectacular job of leading the audience not only for when to applaud or cheer or jeer along with the characters, but when he brings people on stage, he engages with them in such a fun and kind manner. It truly made it a joy to watch, and it looks like the folks who were called up on stage had a great deal of fun!
I cannot recommend Little Dickens enough! You need to see this production. See Dickens’ oft-told tale of redemption told unlike you’ve ever seen it before. Little Dickens only runs until December 18th so you have to get your tickets soon! For more information and tickets visit: Little Dickens / Canadian Stage
Photo by Dahlia Katz