|“It has a grip on the very throat of the times.” – Charles Dickens
This Christmas, a new musical production of The Chimes, inspired by the biting wit and moral outrage of Dickens’s 1844 novel, and prompted by the harsh realities of poverty in 21st-century Britain, will play at St John’s Church in Cardiff from 7 to 16 December and St John’s Church in Waterloo from 19 to 30 December.
The production will be staged site-specifically in these two magnificent churches, with ten performances in each city. There will be a press night in Cardiff on Tuesday 12 December, and a second press night in London on Wednesday 20 December.
Directed and produced by Judith Roberts, written by David Willis and composed by Conor Linehan, and presented in partnership with Chapter arts centre, The Chimes will combine a cast of eight professional actors with ensemble companies drawn from homeless communities in Cardiff and London.
The creative team have been working with three of the country’s leading homeless charities – The Passage in London, and The Wallich and The Huggard in Cardiff – since early September, offering weekly drama workshops to men and women who found themselves homeless. The two ensemble companies have now been cast from participants in these workshops.
Following the success of A Christmas Carol, Dickens continued to write a seasonal story each year for the next 25 years. His second was The Chimes, written in the middle of the ‘Hungry Forties’ as famine swept through Ireland, the Chartists led strikes and riots across Britain, and London was blighted with desperate poverty and prostitution. The purpose of the book was to strike a real blow for the poor and to force the middle classes to sit up and pay attention – more of a protest song than a carol.
This new adaptation of The Chimes for the stage draws explicit parallels between Dickens’s world and contemporary experiences of class, hunger and poverty in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and in the context of the new iniquities and inefficiencies of the universal credit system.
Director Judith Roberts said: “We began by asking ourselves ‘what might Dickens think of Britain in 2017, and what would he want us to do about it?’. We’re not politicians, we’re theatre makers, so we felt we should do what we know best: invite men and women who know first-hand how hard it is to rebuild your life when you’ve become homeless to help us share that experience with audiences, and create a warm, witty, seasonal show which has been inspired by the insight and satire of Charles Dickens and captures the true spirit of Christmas.”
A client of The Wallich and participant in The Chimes said: “When I look back, only eight months ago I was sleeping rough and I’d given up all hope of living…I’m not in that place now…I’m in a place where I feel I’ve got some purpose in life. I thought that was all over…and all my dreams and aspirations had gone with it. This has given me the ability to dream again.”
The Chimes stars Matthew Jure as Trotty and Lucy Benson-Brown as Meg.
Matthew is best known for his TV roles in the BBC1 series Waking The Dead and The Great Train Robbery, opposite Jim Broadbent. He has also appeared in Downton Abbey and in the Sky and Canal+ Anglo-French crime drama The Tunnel with Clémence Poésy. Recent work includes the Raindance-nominated (Best British Feature Film) God’s Acre.
Lucy is an actor and writer whose previous stage credits include Mogadishu by Vivienne Franzmann (Royal Exchange Bruntwood Competition) and Platform by Duncan MacMillan and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Old Vic Tunnels & Frantic Assembly). In 2014 she wrote and produced a one-woman show Cutting Off Kate Bush, which enjoyed a sell-out run in Edinburgh before transferring to Paines Plough’s Roundabout and to the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast.
For more information, please contact Emma Draper or Claudia Conway at [email protected] / +44 (0) 7910 837008 or [email protected] / +44 (0) 7966 567701
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Presented by Judith Roberts, in partnership with Chapter
Adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens
Written by David Willis
Directed by Judith Roberts
Composed by Conor Linehan
Press night 1: Tuesday 12 December, St John’s Church, Canton, Cardiff
Press night 2: Wednesday 20 December, St John’s Church, Waterloo, London
Trotty: Matthew Jure
Meg: Lucy Benson Brown
Richard: Gruffydd Evans
Will Fern/Mr Filer: Fergus Rees
Lillian: Olivia Rose Aaron
Sir Terry Blarney/Mr Chickenstalker/Mr Feeder: Rhys Parry Jones
Lady Blarney/Mrs Chickenstalker: Joanna Brookes
Alderman Cute/Narrator 1: Dafydd Emyr
and an ensemble of men and women who have been homeless and are rebuilding their lives with the support of The Wallich, the Huggard, The Passage and St Mungo’s.
7 – 16 December (no performance on 10 December), 7.30pm
St John’s Church, Canton, Cardiff
029 2030 4400
19 – 30 December (no performance on 24, 25, 26 December), 7.30pm
St John’s Church, Waterloo, London
Running time: 2h 15m including interval (approx)
We will be offering ten tickets free of charge at every performance to those experiencing
The Chimes is supported by Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales with contributions from the Big Lottery, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust, Oakdale Trust, the Gibbs Charitable Trust and Departures.
Charles Dickens’s The Chimes
The Chimes was the story Dickens wanted “to be longest remembered for”. It is the story of Trotty, a man thoroughly brow-beaten by all the rich, pompous do-gooders he encounters, who has lost his faith in humanity and believes that his poverty is the result of his own unworthiness.
On New Year’s Eve, Trotty is cast into gloom by reports of crime and immorality in the newspapers and by his own inability to settle his debts or feed his daughter.
He seeks solace in the bellchamber of his local church, where the goblins and spirits of the chimes undertake to show the depths of despair to which his own family might sink in a world without faith; they teach him that we must trust and hope and never doubt the good in one another. He learns his lesson just in time for the chimes to ring in the New Year and return his family and friends to him.
On publication, The Chimes sold 20,000 copies in under a month and sparked huge debate and controversy. Though now one of his less well-known works, it was the book that Dickens hoped “to be longest remembered for”.
Judith Roberts – Producer and Director
Judith Roberts was the Literary Manager at the King’s Head Theatre, London 1993 – 94, the Head of Creative Development at the Gate Theatre, Dublin February ’99 – Oct. ’00 and the Associate Director at Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (National Welsh Language Theatre of Wales) 2004 – 2009. In 2012 she established De Oscuro. Its work has been seen in theatres across Wales and at The Place and the Linbury Studio.
“The production is sharp in its satire of token sympathies with poverty …. the frame, which could result in tired cod-acting, actually lets loose truly funny over-the-top performances under Judith Roberts’s high-energy direction.” Kate Bassett, The Times, December 1997
“I have never known the play more intensely affecting than in Niamh Cusack’s delivery (the
director was Judith Roberts): urgent, driven, anguished. ” Financial Times, September 1999
“Judith Roberts’ slick directing balanced slapstick and sophistication. An evening of pure
entertainment.” Western Mail, May 2007
“There was a tangible thrill in the auditorium as the lights faded before the interval.” BBC
website, May 2009
“elegantly presents Wales to the wider world, and draws the wider world to Wales’s
backyard… ……powerful and important multi-lingual hybrid of dance and physical theatre” The
Stage, Nov. 2012
“a vital, radical and international take on …Shakespeare’s Macbeth” The Stage, Nov. 2013
“powerfully gut wrenching, at times shocking and always painfully sincere, raw drama…” Mike
Smith, Arts Scene in Wales, 2015
David Willis – Writer
David Willis was lighting designer and production manager for Neil Bartlett and Nicolas
Bloomfield’s Gloria Theatre. Lady Audley’s Secret (1988), A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep
(1989), Ariadne (1991), Let Them Call it Jazz (1991), Sarrasine (1990/1), Now That It’s Morning
(British Screen 1991) A Judgement in Stone (1992), Night after Night (1993/4 solo and ensemble shows) and Lady into Fox (1996).
He was resident production manager at The Drill Hall Arts Centre 1997–2010. Writer The Bar 2007/8. Writer Up Jubilee 2009.
He was script editor and assistant director on Vantastic and Lobster (Oval House, 2010), PM on
Signs of a Diva (Graeae, national tour 2010), PM on Bette Bourne, A life in 3 acts (international
tour 2010/11), new translation and design for Rigoletto (Bury Court Opera 2011) and TSM on
Souvenir d’Anne Frank (Ensemble, national tour 2012). Ongoing community projects with
Outhouse London include writer Cinderella 2012, Peter Pan 2013, The Snow Queen 2014.
He was co-collaborator on the large scale installation at Dean Clough Out of Darkness 2015/6. PM on HIM with Tim Barlow, Iran and other international dates. A full-length screenplay, Amateurs, is in development.
Conor Linehan – Composer
Conor has performed with all of Ireland’s major orchestras, including The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2006 he gave the world premier of Ronan Guilfoyle’s Piano Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, conducted by Colman Pearce. He was immediately re-engaged to perform the Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Winds with the NSO and Alexander Annissimov. Linehan recorded the world premiere of American composer Don Ray’s piano concerto with Derek Gleeson and the Philharmonia Bulgarica, and recently returned to Bulgaria to perform Brahms D minor piano concerto with Gleeson and the Vratza Philharmonic. He has also performed the concertos of Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Litov and others.
He has an extensive solo repertoire from baroque to the contemporary. Concerts include
performances at “The Southwark Festival,” “The Covent Garden Festival,” “Music for Wexford” and the National Concert Hall’s (Dublin) “Composer’s Choice” series. Conor performed the 24 Chopin Preludes as part of Ireland’s celebrations of the Polish accession to the EU in 2004. He also performs a wide variety of chamber music with various ensembles.
Conor has accompanied the renowned German singer Eva Meier worldwide, including venues in London, New York, Berlin, Edinburgh, Madrid, Venice and Beirut. They have regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (with the Matrix Ensemble and Robert Ziegler) and recorded three CDs of German cabaret songs.
He has, additionally composed music for concert, theatre, dance and film, working with such
companies as “The Royal Shakespeare Company” and “The Abbey Theatre” (Dublin). In 2006 he was commissioned by the Royal Irish Academy of Music to compose a concerto for piano and jazz ensemble. This was performed at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and, subsequently, at Merkin Hall in Manhattan, NY, with the RIAM jazz ensemble and Therese Fahy.
The Wallich is a Welsh homelessness charity that operates under three core objectives: getting people off the streets; keeping people off the streets; and creating opportunities for people.
Running more than 70 diverse projects, across 19 local authorities, The Wallich works with more than 5,000 people every year across Wales.
Getting people off the streets
Rough Sleeper Intervention Teams (RSITs) operate in Cardiff, Swansea, Bridgend and Newport and Wrexham every morning. RSITs provide short-term provisions such as food, drink, sleeping bags and recommending further support.
Keeping people off the streets
The Wallich works tirelessly to identify the causes of homelessness and match them with longer-term solutions. Hostels, supported and temporary accommodation all provide a shelter. There are also specialist projects for young people, women and families which provide safe and appropriate accommodation. Other support services, including substance misuse and mental health management, work with vulnerable people to develop and prevent future homelessness.
Creating opportunities for people
Structured learning and employment programmes at The Wallich encourage participants to use their current skills, or gain new ones, in order to get back into volunteering, education or employment. Training courses, volunteering opportunities and practical workshops support people to build confidence, skills and employability.
Sian David, Head of Participation and Progression at The Wallich said: “We go beyond getting people off the streets. We try to give our clients rich experiences and create exciting and innovative opportunities that are out of the ordinary. Many of The Chimes participants have experienced hardship, but they’re on new paths to improving their lives. We hope to continue making partnerships with cultural organisations, like this, to boost the skills, confidence and, ultimately, happiness of our clients.”
To find out more, please visit: www.thewallich.com
Follow The Wallich on Twitter: @TheWallich
Our aim is to provide homeless people with support to transform their own lives.
The Passage runs London’s largest voluntary sector resource centre for homeless and vulnerable people: each day we help up to 200 men and women.
Our eight-strong team of Outreach Workers makes contact, often late at night or early in the morning, with those sleeping rough in Victoria as they are bedding down or getting up each day.
Our 40-bed hostel, Passage House, was officially opened on 1 March 2000. In the financial year 2015-2016, 67 rough sleepers moved off the streets and into Passage House. Our 16 self-contained studio flats in Montfort House have staff support on site and specialise in helping very long term rough sleepers.
We welcome and treat clients with respect and dignity, and find out what they need and want. We offer professional and appropriate advice and help according to the client’s needs and aspirations. We agree an action plan with clients which is time limited with the aim of supporting clients out of homelessness.
Of the over £4 million a year it costs to keep The Passage going, only 33% is funded from statutory sources; the rest comes from donations from individuals, church organisations, charitable trusts and companies.
The Passage is committed to fostering good relations with its neighbours and to reducing any impact of its presence in the area to a minimum, and to this end we have produced a Good Neighbourhood Policy.
We are a Cardiff-based charity tackling homelessness and seeking to overcome the problems and barriers that force individuals to sleep rough on our streets.
Our services focus around our day centre open 365 days of the year, a 20 bed hostel with additional emergency spaces, 14 shared houses with tenant support that accommodate 53 clients. In extreme weather conditions we also open our day centre at night as an additional (EOS) emergency overnight stay unit, to provide shelter for people who would otherwise be forced to sleep rough. We have accommodated 40+ homeless and vulnerable people a night in the winter months.
This is all underpinned by personal and tenant support, development, advocacy, training and many volunteering and work-focussed opportunities.
For over 40 years Chapter has been the heartbeat of creativity in Cardiff. We’re an ambitious, multi-artform venue that presents, produces and promotes international art, live performance and film alongside a dynamic social space.
We welcome nearly 800,000 visitors every year.
We were born in a period of great transformation and change and as one of the first arts centres in the UK we brought together different artforms under one roof, centred around an open, accessible space.
We are an organisation that celebrates difference, that embraces the collision of contemporary and community, of art with audience, of the challenging and new with the open and the accessible.
We have never been afraid to change and develop, take risks and sometimes fail. It’s this spirit of curiosity that has fostered our transformation from a deserted school to a unique hub for art, ideas and innovation.
It has allowed us not just to embrace the change but to use it to move forward along adventurous paths – working with new artists in new ways, becoming more entrepreneurial, supporting independent creatives at a local, national and international level. But also being at the heart of our community – a community of artists, audiences and local people.