Imagine a performance of Charles Dickens incomparable holiday tale, A Christmas Carol, by one of his descendants.
We shared that experience in Nashua, NH, last week last week when his great-great grandson Gerald Charles Dickens did a one-man show at the Sky Meadow Country Club.
Written in 1866, The Signalman, also called The Signal-Man, is a ghost story. An unnamed narrator befriends a railroad signalman at his post outside a tunnel. The signalman confides that he's being haunted by a ghost. The apparition warned him on two previous occasions of impending tragedies; a horrible accident and a sudden death of a passenger. The specter has recently reappeared.
The signalman is tormented that something terrible will happen. While concerned, the narrator but doubts the signalman and at the story’s end, learns the meaning of the third ghostly warning.
Gerald Roderick Charles Dickens is an English actor and performer best known for his one-man shows based on the novels of his great-great-grandfather Charles Dickens. He was born in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the fourth child and second son of David Kenneth Charles Dickens, and is the grandson of Gerald Charles Dickens, his namesake. In 1993, he gave his first solo performance of A Christmas Carol in the U.S. Since then, he's returned annually to perform at historic hotels, libraries, theaters and Dickens festivals. His performance has garnered praise from national and local newspapers. The New York Times described his performance as a once in a lifetime brush with literary history.
During a lively show that lasted over 70 minutes, Dickens played over 30 male and female characters from Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, nephew Fred to Tiny Tim with only a table, wing chair, and hat rack on stage. This is not a reading as Dickens is thoroughly entertaining and at times jumps, sobs and laughs during the performance. He created different gestures and voices for each character, and achieves the changes so skillfully without any confusion on the audience's part.
Because of pandemic safety protocols necessary as he is touring, there was no meet and greet session. However, there was a Q&A with the audience after both performances we attended.
been performing the show since early November with stops in NE, MO, then back in the UK returning to the U.S. to perform in MA, NH, PA, NY, DE. He will return to the UK the week before Christmas to perform shows in London and Leicester. Hopefully, he will be able to spend Christmas with his family at home in Oxford.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a time when British people were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs like cards and Christmas trees. Written as a ghost story, the tale is divided into five chapters or staves, and was originally illustrated by John Leech. It centers on Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley who forewarns him of visits by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Of course, there is much that happens during these visits which delve into aspects of Scrooge's life. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself and transform into a more kinder, gentler man are key themes in the tale.
It was first published days before Christmas in December 1843. The first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844, 13 editions had been released. In 1849, Dickens began public readings, which proved so successful that he did additional performances until his death in 1870. The story has never been out of print. It's been translated into several languages, and adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.
Is it based on a true story?
While a work of fiction, the story is based on real Victorian events. The Ebenezer Scrooge character and the dire straits of the poorest living in the city of London at the time was taken from real people and places. Dickens also drew from his own life experiences. He was born to a middle-class family which fell into financial difficulties caused by spendthrift habits of his father, John. In 1824, the senior Dickens was committed to a London debtors' prison. Then 12-year old Charles had to leave school and work at a shoe-blacking factory to help support his family.
What was Dickens purpose in writing it?
Dickens wanted his readers to realize that, if they denied poor children the necessities of life, food, shelter, warm clothing, and an education, they would grow up to become dangerous or violent adults.
How many versions are there total?
Some accounts list the number at over 130. There are countless well-known versions such as Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983), the George C. Scott version (1984), Scrooge (1951), and the animated 2009 Disney version, starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge and the three ghosts too.Countless episodes of TV series have adapted the story as well.
Who was the first Scrooge?
Seymour Hicks first played Scrooge onstage in 1901 and it became his most popular role. Throughout his career he played it over a thousand times. In 1913, Hicks starred in a silent adaptation as well.
What is the oldest feature film version?
A 1938 film starring Reginald Owen is the first American full-length feature film version of the story.
What are considered the 10 best performances of Ebenezer Scrooge?
Alastair Sim, George C. Scott, Seymour Hicks, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Plummer, Jim Carrey, Tim Curry, Reginald Owen, Albert Finney.
How many versions are in our DVD collection?
We have these six: A Christmas Carol (1938) with Reginald Owen, A Christmas Carol (1984) with George C. Scott, Scrooged (1988) with Bill Murray, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), A Christmas Carol (2009) with Jim Carey.
We have enjoyed the film adaptations, but seeing the story performed up close and personal by a descendent of the author was a most memorable experience. We spoke to several audience members who had seen Gerald Dickens perform in previous years and were back for a repeat show.
Just wondering — are you a fan of A Christmas Carol. If so, do you have a favorite version?