‘A Christmas Carol:’ One-man rendition stars author’s kin

Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday was this year, has garnered literary immortality with his vast body of work, which permeates our culture and the shape of the modern novel.

As a testament to his ubiquitous presence, Wilton is set to host A Christmas Carol next month, and taking the stage will be none other than Mr. Dickens himself — that is, Gerald Charles Dickens, great-great-grandson of the Victorian novelist.

The Ghost of Christmas Past may take on a new meaning as Mr. Dickens, who is said to bear an uncanny resemblance to the famed novelist, takes the stage at the high school's Clune Center on Dec. 3.

Gerald Charles Dickens — an actor and producer from Oxford, England — said he remembers always being keenly aware of his family's celebrated lineage, especially since his father read aloud A Christmas Carol each holiday season.

"Every Christmas he would read aloud to us," Mr. Dickens said. "It was not forced onto us, though."

This year's special take on the classic story has taken the form of a one-man show, which has evolved over nearly two decades into an international sensation. It began with a much less sophisticated reading in 1993, as Mr. Dickens was asked by a friend to participate in the story's 150th anniversary.

Unique voices, quirks and behaviors — all of which hold true with the classic text — have since helped Mr. Dickens breathe life into characters and add emotional thrills to the storytelling.

This process, Mr. Dickens has learned, was very similar to the approach taken by Charles Dickens about 150 years ago for his tours of England-based performances.

"I am constantly changing and adapting this show every year," Mr. Dickens said. "Most everybody knows the story, and the audience has become as much involved in the excitement as me. It's really a show for the whole family."

He will play a total of 26 characters. There will be no intermission break or costume changes, and the performance is estimated to take about one hour and 20 minutes.

As an actor, Mr. Dickens has appeared in several arts and literary festivals around England, and has taken his A Christmas Carol show to the seas for special cruise ship events.

He said this special performance has drawn him closer to his great-great-grandfather in a theatrical sense, nurturing his appreciation for the story and the creative mind of its writer.

Such fulfillment has further inspired him to take on similar challenges, such as an upcoming rendition of his favorite Dickens tale, Great Expectations.

A Christmas Carol was first published by Chapman & Hall on Dec. 19, 1843.

The story follows the mystical transformation of its wealthy and stingy protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge.

The context of the story is work life in England during the massive industrial transformation of the mid-19th Century, in which many were subjected to harsh factory work and squalid living conditions while others grew prosperous.

Gerald Charles Dickens said he carefully omitted sections of the story's five chapters, preserving its most essential elements to best represent its themes and creativity.

The only modest accompaniment Mr. Dickens will take to the Clune Center stage will be a table, wing chair and hat rack.

The Wilton showing is sponsored by the Wilton Historical Society and the Historical Christmas Barn. Information: Historicalchristmasbarn.com.