Victorian street theatre coming to St Albans city centre this Christmas with classic Dickensian tale

Anna Franklin in The Chimes presented by OVO

Anna Franklin in The Chimes presented by OVO - Credit: OVO

Victorian street theatre is coming to St Albans city centre this Christmas.

OVO will stage a promenade version of Charles Dickens’ novella The Chimes over three afternoons in December.

Setting the audience in the heart of the action, The Chimes – directed by Matt Strachan – will take shoppers, audiences and passers-by on a journey around the city while the story of Meg (Emilia Harrild) and Richard (Lewis Jenkins), a bright young couple living in a harsh Victorian world, unfolds around them.

Dickens wrote The Chimes – A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, to give it its full title, a year after completing A Christmas Carol. 

OVO presents The Chimes by Charles Dickens.

OVO presents The Chimes by Charles Dickens. - Credit: OVO

OVO’s production will imagine the audience as Toby ‘Trotty’ Veck, the protagonist of Dickens’ story who plies his messenger trade from the church steps (under the chimes in the bell tower).  

Trotty’s daughter Meg and her fiancé Richard are the central characters together with various classic Dickens creations including the Narrator, the gnarly Alderman Cute, and The Goblin of the Bells played by Anna Franklin.

The Chimes is Matt Strachan's first directing outing for OVO.  

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Matt won this year’s London Pub Theatres Standing Ovation Award for Best Adaptation for Tier Three Sisters, which was performed by Knuckledown Theatre at the Hope in Islington, London.

Matt said: “Charles Dickens was a master of character. What’s so exciting about The Chimes is that it provides a timeless perspective on humanity through a collection of unique and compelling personalities that reveal the story of the young couple at its centre.

"I can’t wait for our incredible cast – Emilia, Lewis and Anna – to take this production onto the streets of St Albans, an ideal location for Dickens’ novella.

“The plan is to promenade the production around some of St Albans’ best known landmarks including St Peter’s Church, the Town Hall, Market Place, the Clock Tower, Abbey Mill Lane and the Cathedral as well as a few more surprise destinations along the way.

"I’m really looking forward to sharing our version of a Dickensian Christmas with St Albans residents, visitors, shoppers and anybody passing by who fancies joining us!”

Anna Franklin in The Chimes presented by OVO

Anna Franklin in The Chimes presented by OVO - Credit: OVO

OVO artistic director Adam Nichols added: “I’m very excited that we’ll be presenting Matt’s version of The Chimes with three of our most accomplished and popular local actors.  

"The production has been made possible with the support of the brilliant team at St Albans Business Improvement District and we hope it will help to attract visitors to the city centre in the run up to Christmas.

“While the story centres on the classic Dickensian subject of the underbelly of Victorian society, The Chimes promises a life-affirming perspective and a positive message that is completely contemporary.  

"We’ll have music, drama, audience involvement and a walk through some of St Albans’ loveliest streets to find out what happens to Meg and Richard. 

"I think audiences will love the opportunity of seeing Victorian drama at its best and I suspect will lap up the opportunity of getting involved, just as they did when we presented our Shakespeare pageant around the city centre in 2016.”

There will be free open-air performances of The Chimes in St Albans on December 9, 16, and 22 at 5pm, beginning at St Peter's Churchyard.

Visit www.ovo.org.uk for more details.


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