What with the recent Les Miserables fever, everyone has been fussing over Victor Hugo and ignoring that other cheerful scribe of poverty and dying children - our very own Charles John Huffam Dickens. This staged reading of The Story of Little Dombey - Dickens’ own novella version of his much longer novel Dombey and Son - beautifully showcases the facility with language that made Dickens such a sensation. If you love Dickens, audiobooks, or just being read aloud to, don’t miss this oasis of literary calm in the National Library.
Apparently in Dickens’ time authors created ‘performance fictions’ of their works to read aloud at public gatherings. The Snow Angels Theatre Company has stayed true to this tradition with Jack Reid’s performance of The Story of Little Dombey. To be clear: this isn’t a one-man theatrical version of Dombey and Son, this is a man reciting a novella from memory. It’s an impressive feat just to tangle with Dickens’ pernickety diction (say that five times, fast) and long, snaking sentences, but Reid manages the whole thing without a single stumble. He’s also an excellent narrator, with a beautifully modulated, emotional voice. Reid is in costume and there are some sound and lighting effects, though while he does character voices he’s not meant to embody any particular character. It’s much like a live version of an audiobook. The text hasn’t been adapted for the stage at all, just cut down to make it an hour long.
This performance is a minimal, no-frills piece that showcases the beauty and wit of Dickens’ language. Reid clearly enjoys the humour of the character descriptions and the ridiculous character names, (Mr. Blimber, Mrs. Pipchin, etc.) and his love of the language is infectious. If you love Dickens or the idea of a story time for adults, run like the Dickens to go see this.