Following in the footsteps of Thomas Gough who won a Critics’ Pick Award in 2018 for the role of Scrooge in Soup Can Theatre/Three Ships Collective’s site-specific adaptation of A Christmas Carol, new cast member Will Carr is nominated for Outstanding Performance (Supporting) this year for his tender and nuanced performance as Young Scrooge.
Do you remember your first experience with theatre?
I played a lamb in my school’s nativity play when I was 4 years old. I suppose that was my U.K. stage debut. But the first time I remember being wowed by the magic of theatre was that same year, seeing Lion King on the West End. I have had many formative experiences in the *cough cough* 20-odd years that have followed, but those would be my first that I can recall.
How did you get involved with A Christmas Carol?
The good ol’ Equity E-drive. It’s no secret that the theatre community in Toronto is difficult to break into, and I hadn’t performed in Toronto for nearly 6 years before A Christmas Carol. So, I jump at every opportunity that I see to work in the city. Luckily the audition went well, and they were looking for new voices this year.
What are some of the rewards and challenges of coming into an established production as a new cast member?
It was a really good mix of actors who were doing this production for the first time, like myself, and others who have been with it for a number of years or even all five iterations. It’s great to have people who know the ins and outs of how a site-specific play like this works. It’s also very nice to have a creative team who have a very clear artistic vision. Of course, when another actor has played the same role for several years, it can be quite difficult to come in and fight for your vision of the character. It would be easy to fall in to the direction of the previous performer, but fortunately for me, I am such a different person than the last Young Scrooge that I had no choice but to follow my own impulses and break out of the previously set interpretation. It’s very rewarding to trust your instincts and see that pay off.
Had you worked on a site-specific show before? What was that experience like?
I had. My final show in college was a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore at the Craigdarroch castle in Victoria directed by Glynis Leyshon. It’s a really exciting way to perform. There’s a level of immersion in the world you get when the fourth wall is actually there that you don’t always get in a traditional theatre setting. The audience being that close to you and all around you means that they see every thought you have. It’s like being on set and having a camera right in your face, it forces you to be truly honest and really dropped in to the world of the play. It allows the audience to feel genuinely connected to the characters in the story, and to be a part of the world that they live in.
Writer Justin Haigh has dramatically reinterpreted Dickens’ characters for this interpretation. How were your roles different from the classic versions?
In the book we don’t get to see Young Scrooge meet Belle, I think the addition of this scene is very powerful. With it, we get to see Scrooge as an optimist, it makes his fall that much harder to watch. Justin also removed a lot of Ebenezer’s lines from the breakup scene, which presented me with a very exciting challenge of fighting for what I wanted while not being able to communicate that with words. It’s heartbreaking for the older Scrooge to see his younger self stand there and be broken by Belle’s words. I think Justin has done a great job in finding the essence of A Christmas Carol while making it feel original.
You played the younger version of Thomas Gough’s Scrooge, a role he’s been playing for years. How did you approach fitting in to his established character while still making it your own?
Well firstly, Thomas is brilliant. The one downfall of playing the younger version of his character was that we had no scenes together. I didn’t however feel any pressure to exist as a younger version of Thomas’ Scrooge. The young Ebenezer that we see is Scrooge before he loses his love for life, and so I had only to play an optimistic man, who is open to the world, and the script takes care of seeing his downfall into who Scrooge becomes.
What were some of the most interesting conversations you remember having with director Sare Thorpe in developing your interpretation of the role?
Sare really let me bring my own voice to these roles. It was great to be trusted to do my work while they made sure that I fit the tone of the rest of the play. I had another small role as Old Joe in this production, and I struggled to find the right size for his character. He was such a different character than Young Scrooge that I really needed Sare to help me find the balance of comedy and drama in that scene. They’re really strong when it comes to taking care of the small, human moments while keeping the overall vision and tone of the piece in mind.
Did you have a favourite moment in the production?
Plenty of backstage jokes between cast members that I think I’ll keep to myself, some unexpected improvised moments that were more for cast than audience too. But I think my favourite moments came from our audiences themselves. Just as there is nowhere for us as actors to hide when the audience is so close, the audiences’ reactions are totally on show for us too. The fact that this story that we all know so well can still illicit laughter and tears made this a very beautiful theatre experience that I will remember for a long time.
Do you have anything you’d like to plug?
Absolutely nothing! As an emerging artist, more often than not I finish a production and have nothing on the horizon. It’s back to the audition grind, so if you’re reading this, please hire me!
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
This was a fantastic cast to work with. So many kind and talented people working on this piece that made it possible. 2 shows every night is tough to get through, but it was such a joy to come to work with everyone that I looked forward to it every day. Grassroots productions like this are only possible with a team of hardworking people in front of and behind the scenes who are doing it because of their passion for telling stories. I encourage you to head to Soup Can Theatre’s website to check out everyone who was involved this year. There’s also a wonderful and loyal audience base that comes out every year that helped us sell out in record time. A special shout out to Justine Christensen who played Belle. She brought a willingness to play and make new discoveries every show. You’re only as good as your scene partner and she’s as responsible for this nomination as myself.