Charles Dickens had a sharp eye, attentive ear and ready pen as far as the foibles of an aspiring middle-class were concerned. He knew much about the slippery, slithery nature of making ends (not quite) meet and keeping up appearances from his own family, so it’s not surprising that his first stories to gain applause caught the public’s interest. All his life he was something of a frustrated actor and Sketches by Boz (Boz being the young journalist’s nomde plume) make for good theatre.
Common Ground’s Pat Whymark and Julian Harries have dramatised seven of these and they are presented in a costumed rehearsed reading which it is hoped will develop into a fuller production. It certainly makes a change from the assorted adaptations of Great Expectations which have marked the Dickens bicentenary for far. Harries links the stories as narrator, setting out the context and also taking part, notably in The Boarding House.
Those people dressed with a little authority who then abuse it are pilloried for our enjoyment in Our Parish. The Great Winglebury Duel, later expanded by its author into the full-length play The Strange Gentleman. Mr Minns and His Cousin and Horatio Sparkins have great fun with social pretensions – not to mention husband-hunting (which also crops up in one of the Our Parish sketches) with its trio of lovelorn maidens straight out of WS Gilbert yearning after a languid new curate. And his successor.