Snow gently falls on cedars as horse-drawn sleighs pull hordes of people in their warm, woollen mittens and furry toques through the wintry landscape.
Sounds like a Christmas card come to life, doesn’t it?
For those who have made tracks to Spallumcheen, you know the scene is the picture perfect trappings of a Caravan Farm Theatre winter sleigh ride production.
But don’t let the idyllic setting fool you on what you are about to witness. This year’s show is a fast, funny and flatulent take on Christmas that will make you feel as warm as a log burning in the hearth, made even more toasty with a sip of Baileys and hot chocolate around the bonfire before the sleighs arrive to pick up their passengers.
Written by dynamic duo TJ Dawe and Michael Rinaldi, Old Nick is the Fringe fest faves’ rather warped take on holiday traditions from around the world. I use the word warped in a good way. The show features a humourous storyline with just enough innuendo so that adults will “get” certain jokes, and very silly characters that will enrapture the kids.
Yes, it’s the perfect family show, as long as little Johnny and Sally are wearing their long underwear and wrapped up in snowsuits — it can get mighty cold out there on Caravan’s 80 acres of field and forest.
Old Nick takes the audience beyond the scope to its back 40, an open field, to experience the different and marvelous scenes. The show has some of the best sets I’ve seen at a Caravan winter production (and I’ve seen a lot of ‘em) courtesy of set designer Marshall McMahen, who also worked on this summer’s Caravan production, The Notorious Robber Right and His Robber Bride.
The scenes, glowing beautifully out of the darkness by lighting mastermind Stephan Bircher, range from a miner’s shack that I would love to tow to the lake to use as a summer residence, to a cozy Christmas home scene, to the palace of a goat demon (more on him later) to a mining shaft.
The show starts at the aforementioned shack, located in front of the bonfire in the farm’s “village”, where Pete the Chimney Sweep (Toby Berner), a take on Zwarte Piet, based on the Dutch-Belgium character Black Peter, leads us into the story before being chased off by the shack’s resident curmudgeon Nick (Jamie Norris).
Off in the woods, thanks to our two-horse open sleigh pulled by equine beauties, we later encounter Nick. A saint, this guy is not. He’s a burly, crusty miner who lives alone and covets his treasures.
And you will pity the fools who attempt to steal the gold and silver trinkets from his shack. Let’s just say they get “sacked” in a beating that also includes uprooted trees and boulders.
Yes, it’s warped, but all in good fun.
We are also led to the tinseled home of Clea (Vanessa Holmes) and Wendell (Tom Jones), who are doting on their new baby while hanging up stinky stockings and preparing just as stinky treats to ward off the arrival of a very bad “Santa.” (Yes, even worse than that character played by Billy Bob Thornton, though just as gassy thanks to some stale buttermilk.)
Krampus (Kevin Corey) is the beast-like character who steals children away at Christmastime to throw them into a pit. He’s accompanied by his witchy and easy-to-hypnotize side-kick Befana (Rachel Aberle).
The theft of the baby leads us to Krampus’ giant horned lair, where we learn where mistletoe and other Christmas traditions come from (wink, wink.) Then it’s off to Nick’s mine we go for the redemption scene and the emergence of the man who would become Santa Claus.
It’s all good, old fashioned, warped fun thanks to Dawe and Rinaldi, director Courtenay Dobbie, who brought their shenanigans to life, and the crew, including Eric Macklem who has created some museum worthy costumes (Krampus’ costume alone would make a taxidermist proud.)
Hearty applause also goes to the fast-moving and talented cast who cover more terrain in frigid weather than a polar expedition — three times a night, no less.
Now that’s warped.
Old Nick continues at Caravan Farm Theatre now until Dec. 31 (except Dec. 24 and 25.) Sleighs are filling up fast. Call or visit the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca to find out about availability.
— Kristin Froneman is the arts-entertainment editor for the Vernon Morning Star.