A DICKENS CHRISTMAS at Hedgerow is One-Man Tour-de-Force

by Ellen Wilson Dilks

This time of year brings forth all sorts of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday tale.   There are dozens of film and TV adaptations, and theatres all over the world mount various and sundry versions.   Hedgerow’s own Jared Reed has gone back to the source—Dickens’ novella, published in 1843—to  present an absorbing 80 minute performance of A CHRISTMAS CAROL’s original text.  

Jared Reed in A DICKENS CHRISTMAS, running at Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley PA through December 12. (Photo courtesy of Curio Theatre Co.)

Charles Dickens was a champion of the underdog and used his fiction to point out the many inequities in British society.  He was writing during the great Industrial Age when many were living in horrible conditions.  He created rich vibrant characters and used humor in many cases to point out society’s shortcomings.  His works are wonderful source material for stage adaptations.

Drawing on his own impoverished childhood for many of his stories, Dickens also used family members as inspiration for characters. He had a sister named Fan (Scrooge’s sister in the novella) who died young; she was the mother of a son who was crippled—the inspiration for Tiny Tim. Dickens’ novella met with instant success and critical acclaim. The book was written and published in the early Victorian era Britain at a time when England was experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions. It was also during this era that new customs such as the Christmas tree and greeting cards were being introduced. The public was enchanted by this heartwarming tale of redemption.

Sometime between 1856 and 1858, Dickens decided to give public readings of his works.  And he proved to be a great show man.  He had elaborate “prompt books” set up with copious notes to himself of just how he wanted to perform each section of a piece.  Needless to say A CHRISTMAS CAROL was in great demand.  So the author travelled all over the world doing his dramatic readings.

This was the source for Mr. Reed’s one-man presentation of this much loved tale.  And Reed is an excellent story teller, acting out the various characters with tremendous skill.  He invokes laughter and chills throughout the evening.  Doing a one-man show is like walking a tightrope without a net—daunting and scary.  There is no one there to give you support. It’s just you the actor and the words.  Mr. Reed handled this Everest of the theatre world with great finesse.  All in attendance last Saturday night were enthralled.

Abetting Mr. Reed in this staging is the soundscape by Drew Petersen.  His original music and wonderfully apropos sound effects become a second performer in the piece. The music is subtle, but creates just the right mood as needed.  Rachel Aulis’ lighting design also adds tremendously to the overall effect of the story as well.  The set is by Zoran Kovich and costumes by Aetna Kuhn.

A DICKENS CHRISTMAS is a wonderful way to get in the holiday spirit. Starting December 3rd, it will run in rep with Hedgerow’s annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL—this adaptation is by Nagle Jackson.

Adapted and Directed by Jared Reed
November 26 – December 12, 2010
Hedgerow Theatre
64 Rose Valley Road
Rose Valley, PA

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