Sunday, 20 March 2011

Shakespeare and me...

It’s not often that I’m compared to Shakespeare. Well, OK, never. However, my son did remark, recently ‘very Shakespearean, Mum’ about my work. The reason is, I am writing a play. No, it’s not in iambic pentameter and it doesn’t have people wandering around accepting the frankly ludicrous premise that a beautiful young girl is actually a virile young lad (or any of the other frankly ludicrous premises in the comedies, or even tragedies - trial by hanky always struck me as ludicrously flimsy stuff - of Wm Shakespeare Esq). It’s actually a play about Dickens but we’ll come back to that in a minute. What prompted the filial Shakespearean reference is that fact that I’m trying to write a play that is going to appeal to all kinds and ages of people. Something for the Dickens enthusiast, something for people who know nothing about him apart from the fact that he wrote the odd book, something for kids who don’t care who he was, something for teenagers who know who he was thanks very much and don’t want to be here anyway…

Which brings me to the sort of play it is. You probably know that 2012 marks not only the year the Olympics come to London (insert hooray or boo here according to your preference) but the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. I have been commissioned to write a play for performance in Rochester cathedral to commemorate this event.

Those of you who knew it was Dickens’ bicentenary next year will know why there is a Dickens festival every year in Rochester. Dickens spent most of his first ten years in and around Chatham (contiguous with Rochester) and, once he was famous, bought a house in Rochester that he had admired as a small boy.

The Dickens festival is a big annual deal for Rochester and the bicentenary festival is going to be a good deal bigger deal, as it were. So I’m very gratified to have been asked to write a play that is going to be the cathedral’s contribution to the porceedings.

Long-term readers of this blog will recall that I wrote and produced a play for the cathedral in 2010. That experience taught me a lot and it’s why I know that – with the likely crowds coming to the cathedral during the festival – I will have to appeal to all kinds and manner of people.

More on this, no doubt, anon; though I suspect that’s the end of the comparisons of my work with Shakespeare.

5 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

Alis, it must be such a lovely thing to do (writing the play), albeit pretty challenging. Dickens has never been my favourite novelist (partly because of over-exposure at school), though I have enjoyed several of his novels. Talking of his centenary, I have a beautiful centenary editon of all his works, given by my grandfather to my grandmother for every birthday and Christmas during their engagement (which seems to have been a lenghty one!).

Alis said...

Hi Frances. Yes, people did go in for long engagements then, didn't they? They were saving up, I suppose. Now people throw caution to the winds and rack up debt.

At least the play calms the waiting somewhat.

Hah, verification word = ravers!! I wish...

Frances Garrood said...

I'm so glad you have something to calm your waiting! I've found looking after triplets for the week-end has been a little diversion. I'm now going to collapse!

Akasha Savage. said...

If your last play was anything to go by this one will be worth waiting for. Let me know dates and times.

Annie said...

Hurrah from Hawkins return to Rochester cathedral - this is great news indeed! What I love about Dickens is his unashamed eye for the worst things, and the best things in his environment. I did a whole project on a tiny pieve of writing he did on public hangings for my MA - and I suddenly really got what he was about. Looking forward to dates so I can book a train!