Review: An Evening with Charles Dickens
Venue: Jacob’s Well, December 13, 2013
It is that time of the year again, and Christmas in York would not be Christmas without an evening with Charles Dickens. The author was renowned for his theatrical readings from his books and Charles Hunt’s homage has that sense of drama and engagement – he looks uncannily like him too!
The show opens with Nicholas Nickleby and his meeting with the Yorkshire schoolmaster, the “one-eyed, villainous” Wackford Squeers at the Saracen’s Head in London. Mr Hunt’s characterisation brilliantly lit up this twisted bully, a man so mean he even diluted his pupil’s milk.
The description of Squeers’ practical teaching was hilariously described: “Where’s the second boy?æ “Please, sir, he’s weeding the garden…” “To be sure,” said Squeers, “…so he is. Bot. bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney, noun substantive, a knowledge of plants.”
Great stuff. But, of course, his treatment of his pupils, and the pathetic Smike in particular, is no laughing matter, and when Mr Hunt recounted Nicholas’s thrashing of Wackford Squeers we could have cheered as well as clap in appreciation.
Round two pitched Bardell V Pickwick, an early Dickensian shot at the farcical judicial system with its patronising prosecution of the weak. “What’s your Christian name, sir?” angrily enquired the judge (to Mr Winkle).”
“Nathaniel, sir… Daniel – by any other name? Nathaniel, sir, my Lord, I mean.” “Nathaniel Daniel or Daniel Nathaniel? No, my Lord, only Nathaniel.” “What did you tell me it was Daniel for?”
“I didn’t my Lord.” “You did sir… how could I have got Daniel in my notes?” Priceless and disturbing.
Charles Hunt closed the show, appropriately enough, with the final scene from A Christmas Carol, delivering a compelling (Christian) narrative of Scrooge’s rebirth and redemption.