Dickens In London


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An eight-year-old Charles visits London in the care of his uncle.

by Michael Eaton. Five short plays broadcast to mark the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens's birth.

The theme of these plays is the Dickens's changing relationship with the city that fired his imagination. Each of the plays tells a unified, 'stand-alone' story, but it also contributes to an over-arching narrative - organised around the sounds of the city and the life story of the man whose footsteps pounded those streets.

A-Not-Particularly-Taken-Care-of Boy tells how the young Charles visited London as an eight-year old boy, in the care of his uncle. They become separated by the crowds, but with the help of a young gentleman, the terrors of the unknown city become part of a new world of stories. Based on 'Gone Astray' - written in 1853 about events c.1820; 'The Pantomime of Life' - written in 1837 and 'Meditations In Monmouth Street' - Sketches by Boz.


Boy....Hugo Docking

Young Gentleman....Samuel Barnett

Street Arab....Ryan Watson

Uncle....Sam Dale

Gog....Jude Akuwudike

Lad....Henry Devas

Judge / Magog....Sean Baker

Mother / Clothes Shop Woman....Joanna Monro

Wife....Deeivya Meir

Pal....Iain Batchelor

Music by Neil Brand

Directed by Jeremy Mortimer

Writer Michael Eaton has based each play on Dickens's own letters and journalism: Sketches By Boz and the articles from the journals Household Words and All The Year Round. But these short dramas are never afraid to play fast and loose with autobiographical details - as Dickens himself was wont to do.

Each play takes as its title one of Dickens's own appellations.

A Not Over-Particularly-Taken-Care-Of-Boy, Boz, the Sparkler of Albion, the Uncommercial Traveller and, The Inimitable.

Dickens described London as a 'Magic Lantern spectacle'. So it is appropriate that 'Dickens in London' is part of an innovative collaboration between Film London Artists' Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Drama.

'Dickens in London' is a commission for film artist Chris Newby, writer Michael Eaton, and composer Neil Brand to produce a set of cross-platform works, to be made available on Interactive Television (the Red Button) and on the Radio 4 website. The project is supported with a Grants for the Arts Award from Arts Council England.

Michael Eaton, MBE, is a screenwriter who specialises in docudrama. His work includes Shipman, Shoot To Kill and Who Bombed Lockerbie. His fictional work includes Flowers of the Forest, the TV series Signs and Wonders and feature Fellow Traveller. He has adapted works by George Eliot and Charles Dickens for BBC Radio 4.

Chris Newby is an artist with a strong track record in producing moving image pieces and feature length works that have reached wide audiences. Recent gallery shows include The Art of Faith in Norfolk, which featured a specially commissioned film by Newby. His work has been shown in galleries and film festivals nationally and internationally and has been broadcast on Channel 4, Arte and ZDF.

Neil Brand is a writer/performer/composer well known throughout the world for his accompaniment of silent films. His film scores include South (Shackleton's Journey to the South Pole), The Ring by Alfred Hitchcock, The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, and recently a highly acclaimed jazz score for the 1927 Anna Mae Wong movie Piccadilly. He has written the title music and many scores for TV documentaries, scores for over 60 Radio 4 dramas, writes music for theatre, has written two award-winning musicals and eight radio plays.

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The young Charles Dickens is working as a parliamentary reporter, but longs to be a writer

by Michael Eaton

The strange Young Gentleman is now working for The Morning Chronicle, and has established himself as the swiftest and best-dressed Parliamentary Reporter, earning a decent salary of five guineas a week, taking down shorthand reports of debates in the House. But he has ambitions to write his own stories. Based on 'Thoughts About People' (1835), 'A Dinner at Poplar Walk' from The Monthly Magazine (1833), 'Sketches By Boz' in general and 'A Parliamentary Sketch' (1836).


Young Gentleman / Boz....Samuel Barnett

Manager / Conductor....Brian Bowles

Augustus Minns....Nyasha Hatendi

Alexander....Bertie Gilbert

Cousin....Jane Whittenshaw

Clerk....Iain Batchelor

Husband... Stuart Mcloughlin

Landlady.... Sally Orrock

Member / Waiter....Jude Akuwudike

Confectioner....Sean Baker

Passenger....Alex Tregear

Apprentices... Adeel Akhtar, Henry Devas

Drunken Woman....Claire Harry

Music by Neil Brand

Directed by Jeremy Mortimer.

03The Sparkler Of Albion2012020820130410 (BBC7)

Dickens spends an evening on a tour of duty in London's East End with Inspector Field.

by Michael Eaton

Has there ever been a more successful writer? Has there ever been a more well-beloved writer? Dickens can go anywhere and do anything. And this evening he is going out for a jaunt with the detective police. Inspector Field who is now the Chief of the Detective Department at Scotland Yard, greets 'The Sparkler of Albion' like an old friend. They have some ground to cover, is he up for it? Of course he is. Largely a dramatisation of 'On Duty With Inspector Field' - written in June 1851 - with some material from 'A December Vision' - written in 1850 and 'Bleak House' - begun in 1852.


The Sparkler of Albion.... Alex Jennings

Inspector Field....Elliot Levey

Jo....Ryan Watson

Sgt. Williams....Stuart McLoughlin

Bark....Sam Dale

Constable....Nyasha Hatendi

Rogers....Brian Bowles

Earl of Warwick....Sean Baker

Drunken Woman....Claire Harry

With Adeel Akhtar, Iain Batchelor, Henry Devas

Music by Neil Brand

Directed by Jeremy Mortimer.

04The Uncommercial Traveller2012020920130411 (BBC7)

Dickens has achieved success, but he walks the streets at night because he cannot sleep.

by Michael Eaton

Almost a decade on and Dickens is still night walking. But now it is because he can no longer sleep. His attitude towards the city has transformed: 'London is a vile place, I sincerely believe I see that great heavy canopy lowering over the housetops... the meanness of Regent Street...the abortive ugliness of Trafalgar Square...London is shabby by daylight, shabbier by gaslight.' Based upon his statement: 'Personal'- written in June 1858 - and The Uncommercial Traveller essays: His General Line Of Business; City of London Churches; The City of the Absent; Shy Neighbourhoods; Night Walks and Two views of a Cheap Theatre - written in 1860.


The Uncommercial Traveller....Alex Jennings

Catherine Dickens....Jane Whittenshaw

Boy....Hugo Docking

Steerforth....Stuart McLoughlin

Policeman....Brian Bowles

Waitress....Alex Tregear

Confectioner....Sean Baker

Music by Neil Brand

Directed by Jeremy Mortimer.

05 LASTThe Inimitable2012021020130412 (BBC7)

by Michael Eaton

Dickens is an old man now, though he's not even sixty. His aching feet draw him irresistibly towards London's East End. All around he sees the same want and ignorance he wrote about all those years ago.

Why is he doing all these public readings? He can fool himself that it's because he wants the contact with his readers - no writer before him has ever had such an adoring Public - but is there another reason ?

Based on A Small Star in the East and On An Amateur Beat - written in 1869; and the reading of Sikes and Nancy - first given on his reading tour in 1868 and performed finally in 1870, three months before his death.

Inimitable - Antony Sher

Young Gentleman / Younger Self - Samuel Barnett

Mamie / Nurse - Sally Orrock

Creature - Ryan Watson

Dolby / Cabbie - Brian Bowles

Little Girl / Child - Deeivya Meir

Music by Neil Brand.

Dickens is an old man now. His aching feet draw him irresistibly towards London's East End

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The author's life told through his relationship with the city that fired his imagination.

The story of Dickens's life told through his relationship with the city that fired his imagination. By Michael Eaton, with Samuel Barnett, Alex Jennings and Antony Sher.