Posts Tagged ‘charles dickens’

This production by Middle Ground Theatre Company, features two short, spooky plays.  Both plays star Jack Shepherd and Terrence Hardiman in the main roles, with a small supporting cast.  In ‘Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad’ based on a short story by M R James, Shepherd plays Professor Parkins, a somewhat stuffy academic, who is stopping a small hotel on the East Coast, for a golfing holiday.  He finds an old whistle at a graveyard of the Templar Saints, and while showing it to a fellow guest, he blows it and a huge gale starts.  Parkins is sceptical about the existence of ghosts, but is soon driven to terror by whatever malevolent force he appears to have summoned up with the whistle.

The play was very enjoyable, with some unexpected moments of humour.  I wouldn’t describe it as an out-and-out horror, but it was spine-tingling, and had one moment of complete shock, which certainly made me (and those sitting around me) jump!  The performances by Shepherd and Hardiman (as the fellow guest) were excellent, and Dicken Ashworth was also on form as the hotel owner.

The second play, ‘The Signalman’ was based on a short story by Charles Dickens (not one I’d heard of, but one I’d like to read).  Shepherd is the titular character, an isolated signalman who is responsible for a who is haunted by an apparition which seems to warn him of an impending disaster on the lonely stretch of railway for which he is responsible.  As he explains to a traveller who he befriends (Hardiman), he has seen the ghost twice before, and after each sighting, there was a disaster on a train travelling on the line.  The traveller attempts to allay his fears, and believes that the signalman is hallucinating, but is there something in what the signalman says?

Although I enjoyed Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad very much, I think this was my favourite of the two plays.  The conversation between the two characters felt spontaneous and unscripted – and for most of the play, it WAS just these two characters talking – indeed Shepherd was on stage throughout – so there was a fair bit of dialogue, and it was performed seamlessly.  Again, it was not a horror story, but it was the kind of story that plays on your mind and keeps you thinking about it afterward.

The sound effects for both plays – especially the gales in the first play – added to the eerie atmosphere, and the acting was top-notch.  I also loved the simple but effective sets.  An excellent production in every sense, and well worth seeing.

(For more information about Middle Ground Theatre Company, or this production, please click here.)

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Much is known of the celebrated novelist Charles Dickens – his books are loved throughout the world, and he had an ability to craft the most amazing and entralling stories.  However, very little is known of his wife Catherine Hogarth; Far Above Rubies is Catherine’s story – a fictionalised account of her life with Charles.

The narration is by Catherine herself, and starts on the evening she first meets Charles, at a dinner hosted by her father.  Although Charles seems to be drawn to Catherine’s younger sister Mary, it is Catherine to whom he proposes, marries and subsequently has nine children with.  However, while he was undoubtedly an intelligent and charismatic man, he was a difficult husband – developing infatuations with numerous other women, ordering Mary that she must not ever contradict him or argue with him, and acting thoughtlessly and selfishly, with little or no regard for her feelings.

I really enjoyed the story – the writing flowed really well, and it was a pleasure to read.  I felt that the character of Catherine – who so little is known about – really shone through.  Charles was also drawn really well, and while it was easy to see why someone would get exasperated with him, the reader could also see why someone might be drawn to his confidence (verging on arrogance) and intelligence.

At several times in the book, I did want to give the main character a metaphorical shake and ask her why she was prepared to put up such behaviour from her husband, but I also found myself liking her very much.

Overall, this is a fascinating read for both fans and non-fans of Dickens.  I found myself flying through it, and my attention was held throughout.  Definitely recommended.

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This review is about the 2009 animated version of A Christmas Carol, featuring the voices of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth amongst others.

Christmas time means Christmas movies…and what better choice than a movie based on one of the most famous and popular novels celebrating Christmas – Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’?

This version of the story remains very truthful to the book – Ebenezer Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who tells him to expect visits from three further ghosts.  These ghosts – Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come, show Scrooge the error of his mean and penny pinching ways, and help him to secure a happier future both for himself and those around him.

I’ve read some negative reviews of this movie, but for my part I enjoyed it.  Although it is animated, Bob Cratchitt and nephew Fred do look like the actors that voiced the parts (Gary Oldman and Colin Firth respectively). Jim Carrey however is unrecognisable either by sight or voice, but he plays the part of Scrooge very well.  He also voices some of the other characters in the story, which I didn’t realise until after I had finished watching.

The story is, on the whole, very faithful to the book although there are a few special effects added in, which may not have been necessary, but did not detract from the story.  There were also a number of scenes with comic relief.

Some people complain that it does not have the heart and soul of other better known versions of the story (Alistair Sim’s version being probably the most popular).  That may be true, and it may possibly be due to the fact that it is animated, rather than having actual people appear on screen.  However, it was a highly enjoyable movie to watch curled up on the sofa on a lazy afternoon, with an inches thick covering of snow outside – which is exactly how I saw it!

A recommended movie for the season!

Year of release: 2009

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Charles Dickens (book), Robert Zemeckis

Main cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth


Click here for my review of the novel.


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