The family are busy. The corps dramatic are all anxiety. The scenery is all completing rapidly, the machinery is finished, the curtain hemmed, the orchestra complete, and the manager grimy.
So wrote Charles Dickens in 1833, concerning his anxious preparations for a private theatrical that he was staging with friends. Yet this was more than light entertainment. Even though this production took place in Dickens’s father’s house, its scale was lavish. But then Dickens was never known for doing anything by halves. Just a few years later his fiction had propelled him into a public spotlight, and this also gave him the opportunity to write for a larger, and professional, stage. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm for amateur drama endured.
Although not usually remembered as a dramatist, Dickens wrote several plays, including the one-act comedy Is She His Wife? or, Something Singular! In staging this diverting play, we aim to recreate the style, music and performance techniques of Dickens’s early private theatricals. This ‘practice as research’ project will promote public awareness of Dickens’s more obscure works, and provoke questions about Dickensian theatricals and Victorian drama more widely.
Do you privately harbour a wish to tread the boards? Are you interested by Victorian theatre or studying Dickens? Would you like to be involved in this exciting project? If so, we are looking for actors.
This project will result in two performances. The first will be held at King’s College London, and will be open to a public audience. The second will follow a small afternoon symposium, and will be held at the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street – where Dickens was living when Is She His Wife? premiered at the St James’s Theatre.
Actors will be expected to commit to these performances (in the evening on 17th and 18th September), as well as to three rehearsals in the week commencing 14th September, and a readthrough in the week commencing 31st August.
The play has a run-time of approximately one hour: you can read the full text online here.