Artist in the Hotseat: Gerald Dickens

How long have you been an interpreter of Charles Dickens’ works and what inspired you to start out on this path?

Although I have been involved with theatre since I was 9, I didn’t start performing the works of my great-great-grandfather until 1993, which marked the 150th anniversary of the first publication of A Christmas Carol.  

A local charity contacted me and asked if I would re-create one of Charles’ own dramatic readings of the novel to help raise funds, and I agreed – reluctantly, it must be said. As soon as I started working on the performance I realized how complete all of the characters were and how rich was the language. It was then that I discovered the innate theatricality of Dickens’ writing and so a firm bond was created between us. 

What inspired you to perform a double-bill of ‘Sikes and Nancy’ and ‘The Signal-man’ in one performance? 

The nice thing about the original readings is that they can be performed in any combination – Sikes and Nancy, along with The Signalman is a dark, brooding combination and although there are not many laughs, the words create a tension in the way that a fine physiological thriller does. If this evening were to be filmed, then someone akin to Alfred Hitchcock would take the reins!

Are there any actors on stage or screen that inspire you?

I learn from every actor I watch, so there are no particular individuals that I can mention.  However, the main influence comes from Charles Dickens – a very fine theatrical man in his own right.

What has been your biggest obstacle as a one-man show? 

I love the sensation of being on stage alone. I adore the feeling that an entire cast can move an audience, but all originating from one person. I suppose the biggest issue is the line learning – some of my shows are two hours long. When I used to act in scripted plays one page of a speech would seem daunting, but you simply work through it over and over and over again. It is the same with 30 pages of text – just a question of putting in the work. 

At school, I must have been about 13, I was in a play and forgot a line – the prompt came loudly from the wings: ‘I AM LOST FOR WORDS!’. The laughter from the audience was so humiliating, and I felt so small, that I swore I would never forget a line again: I suppose that memory spurs me on to learn lines properly!

What advice could you offer to young actors interested in pursuing solo performances?

Many actors are scared of going it alone, but to me it is the most complete theatrical experience a performer can have and I would urge anyone to try it. However, there is nowhere to hide, so the two most important things are having complete confidence in yourself and the script; the second thing? Hard work and preparation – that will see you through.

Don't forget to book your tickets to see Gerald Dickens at Revelation on October 19th 2016.

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