Great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens presents his one-man show
LEWISBURG — Fun, energy and lots of Christmas spirit — that’s what guests can expect when they settle in to experience “A Christmas Carol,” as performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, on Tuesday at The Country Cupboard, 101 Hafer Road, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Dickens is the great-great grandson of author Charles Dickens, and is an accomplished actor, director and producer. Having created his own one-man show, Dickens offers audiences a theatrical performance of “A Christmas Carol,” inspired by Charles Dickens’ own energetic readings of the 1860’s.
Born in 1812, Charles Dickens is lauded as one of the most important and influential writers of the 19th century. Throughout his career, he wrote such classic novels as “Oliver Twist,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “David Copperfield,” “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations.” He died in 1870 before finishing his final novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
Though several generations removed, Gerald Dickens said he was “always aware of the influence of (Charles) Dickens,” but that his childhood was like that of every other child.
“My father was a great fan and a great expert, but he never forced any of the children to follow in his footsteps,” said Dickens. “My childhood was what I would describe as perfectly normal and Dickens didn’t affect me for good or bad.”
And, while Dickens said he knew early on he would be an actor, performing as Dickens was never a given.
“I knew that I would be an actor long before I knew I would perform Dickens,” he said. “I first appeared on stage at the age of nine, and there was never anything else that I wanted to do with my life.”
Then, in 1993, on the 150th anniversary of the original publication, Dickens performed a reading of Charles Dickens’ work, “A Christmas Carol.” It would be the first time he read from one of his great-great-grandfather’s works, but far from the last.
“For the first time I had considered using my ancestor’s work, and it changed my life,” he said.
What started out as simple readings of his great-great grandfather’s work soon grew into much more for Dickens. He created his one-man show based on “A Christmas Carol,” and continued to develop other performances based on the other classic stories written by Charles Dickens.
“I now have a repertoire of 12 shows, some of which are based on other novels such as ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘Great Expectations,’ and others on some of Dickens’s short stories,” he said. “I am always on the look out for new shows to create and prepare and this year I will start work on a new script based on ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ “
Creating such detailed and theatrical performances is a process that takes a lot of time, patience and rehearsal, said Dickens.
“I will start out with a sense of how I want the show to ‘feel’ (comic, dramatic, dark, etc.), but most of the work starts when I edit the original text and as I am forming the script ideas come to me for props, set or movements,” he said. “I then develop [the script] through rehearsals — in my back garden if it is sunny, in the kitchen if not.”
The show will continue to develop through the first performances as it is only then that Dickens said he can gauge how the bond with the audience is working, “Which is a vital ingredient in a one man show.”
Though he works alone, Dickens finds satisfaction in making a personal connection with his audience.
“I love the connection to the audience, which can become very personal — that is something that an actor wouldn’t necessarily experience in a show with a large cast,” he said. “But for me it is so important that we are all involved in the show and the story.”
This isn’t Dickens’ first time performing in the area.
“I love returning to Lewisburg,” he said. “The first connection (to Country Cupboard) was made through my agent at Byers’ Choice, who manufacture Christmas figurines and who thought that a store such as The Country Cupboard — who celebrate Christmas so enthusiastically — would be a perfect venue for me.”
It has proven to be just that, said Dickens.
Based out of Abingdon, just outside of Oxford in the UK, Dickens spends a great deal of time traveling the world performing at venues in the U.S. as well as Italy and across the UK.
He will be joining a cruise ship in January which will take him to The Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
Tickets for Gerald Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” are available at www.shop.countrycup boardinc.com or by visiting Country Cupboard.
For more information about Gerald Charles Dickens, visit www.ger alddickens.com.