Venue: Concert Room, St George's Hall Where: Liverpool
Charles Dickens claimed that Liverpool was his favourite city after London, and that St George’s Hall’s Concert Room was ‘the most perfect hall in the world’. It is fitting, therefore, that Tales from Charles Dickens does credit to the genius of Dickens’ writing and to the atmospheric elegance of one of the city’s finest venues.
Over nearly two and a half enthralling hours and under the direction of Jen Heyes, some of Dickens’ most exciting passages are brought to life. High praise must be lavished upon the four storytellers: Eithne Brown, Roy Carruthers, Brian Dodd, and Francess Gannon, who are all simply outstanding in their various roles. Credit must also be given to lighting and sound engineer, Mike Dunne, who wisely keeps things simple to great effect.
The first half of the show is comprised by several chapters of crowd-pleaser, Oliver Twist. Dramatically this is extremely effective, leaving the audience feeling that they have dipped into Oliver’s story at its core moments. The second half, meanwhile, focuses on significant chapters from two other works: Great Expectations and Hard Times. In doing so, we get a lengthier glimpse through the keyhole; for instance, the entire chapter in which Pip first meets Estella and Miss Havisham.
In sum, Tales from Charles Dickens is a triumph for producers, Bill Elms and Heyes. It is wonderfully subtle and understated, shifting the emphasis of the evening to the writing of Dickens himself and to the aesthetic quality of the venue. In a celebration of Dickens’ 200th birthday, this seems most apt.