It’s not often that I’m compared to Shakespeare. Well, OK, never. However, my son was moved to remark, recently ‘very Shakespearean, Mum.' Because 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 a play about Dickens but we’ll come back to that in a minute. What prompted the filial Shakespearean reference is the fact that I’m trying to write a play that will 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. And I've 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's 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 proceedings.
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.