New musical theatre production of Charles Dickens’s Christmas satire The Chimes to feature actors from the homeless community

Posted on: 15 Nov 2017

 It has a grip on the very throat of the times. – Charles Dickens

This Christmas, a new musical production of The Chimes, inspired by the biting wit and moral outrage of Dickens’s 1844 novel, and prompted by the harsh realities of poverty in 21st-century Britain, will play at St Johns Church in Cardiff from 7 to 16 December and St Johns Church in Waterloo from 19 to 30 December.

The production will be staged site-specifically in these two magnificent churches, with ten performances in each city. There will be a press night in Cardiff on Tuesday 12 December, and a second press night in London on Wednesday 20 December.

Directed and produced by Judith Roberts, written by David Willis and composed by Conor Linehan, and presented in partnership with Chapter arts centre, The Chimes will combine a cast of eight professional actors with ensemble companies drawn from homeless communities in Cardiff and London.

The creative team have been working with three of the country’s leading homeless charities – The Passage in London, and The Wallich and The Huggard in Cardiff – since early September, offering weekly drama workshops to men and women who found themselves homeless. The two ensemble companies have now been cast from participants in these workshops.

Following the success of A Christmas Carol, Dickens continued to write a seasonal story each year for the next 25 years. His second was The Chimes, written in the middle of the ‘Hungry Forties’ as famine swept through Ireland, the Chartists led strikes and riots across Britain, and London was blighted with desperate poverty and prostitution. The purpose of the book was to strike a real blow for the poor and to force the middle classes to sit up and pay attention – more of a protest song than a carol.

This new adaptation of The Chimes for the stage draws explicit parallels between Dickens’s world and contemporary experiences of class, hunger and poverty in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and in the context of the new iniquities and inefficiencies of the universal credit system.

Director Judith Roberts said: We began by asking ourselves what might Dickens think of Britain in 2017, and what would he want us to do about it?. Were not politicians, were theatre makers, so we felt we should do what we know best: invite men and women who know first-hand how hard it is to rebuild your life when youve become homeless to help us share that experience with audiences, and create a warm, witty, seasonal show which has been inspired by the insight and satire of Charles Dickens and captures the true spirit of Christmas.

A client of The Wallich and participant in The Chimes said: “When I look back, only eight months ago I was sleeping rough and I’d given up all hope of living…I’m not in that place now…I’m in a place where I feel I’ve got some purpose in life. I thought that was all over...and all my dreams and aspirations had gone with it. This has given me the ability to dream again."

For more information and to purchase tickets click here.  

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