Based in Abingdon and a great great grandson to Charles Dickens, Gerald reads us 'A Christmas Carol'.
As a child, Charles Dickens didn’t register too much on my radar. Yes, we watched BBC adaptations of Dickens novels on a Sunday afternoon and it was strange to see my surname on the screen, but I didn’t really think much further about it than that.
The first time that I began to have a hint as to the influence of this man was on June 9 1970, which marked the centenary of Charles’s death. The family attended a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and I was dressed up in a tie, with hair carefully combed. Members of the Dickens family were ushered to one of the front pews and there, as a six year old, I fidgeted and got rather bored. In the same way as young David Copperfield did, I started looking around the Abbey and to my astonishment I found myself sitting in the same pew as the Queen Mother! THAT made an impression on me: I’d seen HER on television!
Throughout my school years I fended off questions about Charles Dickens but still wasn’t really interested. For ‘O’ Level I studied ‘Oliver Twist’ and didn’t even finish reading it. I even quoted lyrics from Lionel Bart’s Musical, rather than refer to the original text.
My love had always been theatre, ever since I was cast in a school nativity play. I was at home on the stage and made sure I was involved in every school or local play that was being staged. If I couldn’t act in it, I’d be backstage, or selling programmes, or sweeping the stage: anything to be part of the theatrical life.
It was another family trip that finally made me realise what a fantastic storyteller Charles Dickens was. In the early 80’s the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted a mammoth 8-hour adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby and the Dickens family were invited to watch. It was one of the most memorable shows I’d ever seen and suddenly I realised that the works of Charles Dickens were theatrical, bold, fun, tragic, terrifying, uplifting and so much more. I loved it.
I first started performing from the works of my great great grandfather in 1993, when I was invited to commemorate 150 years of A Christmas Carol, by recreating one of Charles’s own public readings. As a performer the material was perfect; each character so vividly drawn and so alive.
Since that first performance I have been fortunate to travel around the world performing in theatres, libraries, hotels, arts centres, cruise ships, village halls, private homes, schools, colleges and universities. The audiences are varied but all love being told a story and I am fortunate to tell the stories of one of the greatest masters of that craft in history!
Tune in between 1 – 4 pm everyday this week ( 15 – 19 December 2008) on Jo Thoenes’ programme to hear Gerald Dickens reading his adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. You can also get a CD copy of Gerald reading the story. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
last updated: 15/12/2008 at 12:04
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