A Charles Dickens Classic Stays in the Family
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
CBN.com-Charles Dickens is the author of one of the greatest Christmas classics of all-time: A Christmas Carol. Today, Charles’ great, great grandson, actor Gerald Dickens, is carrying on the family tradition with his one-man performance of A Christmas Carol, including a recent one at the Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where he shared his thoughts on the life and work of his famous ancestor.
Ironically, Gerald was not a fan of his famous ancestor’s writing when he first encountered it. “I absolutely hated it,” he laughs. “I couldn’t abide it. To be fair, I was at school. I was a teenager. We were given Oliver Twist as a set text. And the English teacher pointed out the beautiful language, and the use of plot devices and everything else—it meant nothing to me.”
But that all changed the night Gerald went to see a stage play of one of Charles’ books. “The Royal Shakespeare Company, in Britain, wanted to do a stage adaptation of one of Dickens’ novels, and they chose Nickolas Nickleby,” he says. “So I went along as sort of this archetypal grumpy teenager, and I sat there and the play started. In five minutes, I was hooked. It was fabulous.”
Gerald also republished Charles Dickens’ last book, The Life of Our Lord, a little- known work he wrote to his children on the life of Jesus Christ. The book is a re-telling of the gospels in simple prose form, written as an encouragement to Dickens’s children and future generations.”
“It is so personal,” Gerald says about The Life of Our Lord. “And he wrote it very specifically as a guideline to his children: ‘Take this. Read it. Understand the life of Jesus Christ, and you won’t go far wrong.’”
Gerald eventually developed a particular fascination with the characters and themes in A Christmas Carol, ones that he acts out for audiences in the U.S. and Great Britain.
Gerald still recalls the first time he heard A Christmas Carol read when he was just a young boy. “I remember lying in bed. My cousins were staying with us over Christmas, and their father, my uncle, read A Christmas Carol to us,” he says. “And it didn’t matter who the author was. It didn’t matter to me that this was Charles Dickens. It was just a riveting story. And I was absolutely amazed by the ghosts and the travel, and—one minute we’re in London, and the next minute, we’re out in the middle of the ocean, and the next--what’s going on? My biggest memory, and something I always try to get over when I do the show, is the amazement when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, and discovers that he hasn’t missed it.”
Despite performing over 60 shows a year, Gerald says it never gets old. “I know people are going to come to see the show because I’m the great, great grandson of Charles Dickens. Of course, that’s marketing. I understand that,” he says. “As long as they leave the theater or the venue or wherever it is, having seen a fantastic piece of theater. I adore it. It is just so exciting every single time.”
And Gerald often closes his one-man show with the famous line uttered by Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol: “God bless us every one!”
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