A new musical theatre production of Charles Dickens’s Christmas satire The Chimes to feature actors from the homeless community.
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.
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 Dafydd Emyr as Alderman Cute / Narrator and Rhys Parry Jones as Sir Joseph Blarney / Mr Chickenstalker / Mr Feeder.
Dafydd is an actor and writer who has worked extensively in television, film, theatre and radio. His television and film work includes: The Bastard Executioner, Da Vinci’s Demons, Dr. Who, Casualty, Famous Five, The Windsors, Eastenders – The Dot Story, Wild Justice, Excalibur, Old Scores, Deryn, Amdani, Blodeuwedd, Rownd and Rownd and Mae Gen I Gariad. His theatre work includes: Kick the Breeze (BAC), Hamlet (Wales Theatre Company), Patagonia 150 and The Border Game (National Theatre Wales), Danny the Champion of the World, Pinocchio and Merlin and the Cave of Dreams (Sherman Theatre), Man of Fire (Whare Teg), Sgint, Iesu and Hollti (Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru), and Amdani (Sgript Cymru).
Rhys is well known for regular roles on S4C including Pobol y Cwm, Teulu and Y Pris. Recent credits include the lead in thriller 35 Diwrnod for Apollo Television, comedy Stella for Sky 1, BBC series Hinterland and Starz fantasy series Outlander. Rhys’s film work includes Patagonia with Matthew Rhys, and a principal role in Ironclad with Brian Cox and Paul Giamatti. On stage, Rhys has recently starred in farce Dim Byd Ynni, an immersive production of Triptych, and performed in Cyrano de Bergerac at Theatr Clywd.
The Chimes also 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.