TO MARK the 200th anniversary of the birth of Britain’s most popular novelist, Charles Dickens, a new production is being staged at Lancaster’s 18th-century Grand Theatre.
It was in this building that Dickens gave two public readings in the 1860s, and he also stayed at the (former and now Royal) Kings Arms in 1857, where he wrote one of his ghost stories.
Written and devised by local writer and performer Michael Nunn, A Taste of Dickens consists of selected extracts from Dickens’ novels, journalism and speeches. Nearly all of the readings focus on food and drink in their many guises and in varying social situations.
Also featured is a Victorian buffet to be served during the interval. Dickens’ wife, Kate, published a cookery book (under the pseudonym of Lady Maria Clutterbuck) in 1851 entitled What shall we have for Dinner, with menus for between four and 20 diners, and a handful of her own recipes.
Her Scottish origins are apparent in her choices, and as the Dickens family travelled widely across Europe, continental food is included, too.
Some Lancashire delicacies will also be served. The food is being provided by The Borough on Dalton Square in Lancaster, which only uses ingredients from suppliers in the area.
Lancaster Theatre Productions has also commissioned an Artist-in-Residence, Isobel Outhwaite, who recently graduated in Fine Art from Lancaster University. Her excellent period drawings and cartoons have been used for the posters, fliers and programmes.
The Grand also has a poet-in-residence, Joe Dresner, who graduated from Lancaster University three years ago.
He is a published poet who has also given readings in London and elsewhere. Their contemporary takes on the writer, his characters and familiar Lancaster locations, combine to add a special and distinctive air to the event.
All the performers and other production staff, whose ages range from teenagers to the over-50s, have either lectured, acted or read in public before in Lancaster.
They are all either from the city originally, or have studied and/or worked in the area.
After the performance there will be a chance to ‘meet the cast’ for a short talkback about the performance. All the cast and creative team, poet- and artist-in-residence will be present to answer questions.
The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Lancaster, Coun Sheila Denwood, has accepted an invitation to attend.
The event is being sponsored by Lancaster Grand Theatre and the Lancaster Brewery and Visitor Centre.
Tickets are £15 including buffet (concs. £12), and are available from The Grand Theatre Box Office (in person), or telephone 01524 845230.