A bridge between a rock and a hard place, The Chimes holds a mirror up to 21st Century Britain through a classic Dickensian Dystopia.
“The Chimes” was a novella written by Charles Dickens and published in 1844 as part of a five book series of moral tales for children. The premise is of a poor man reflecting on his life and future on New Years’ Eve.
This production of the show; directed by Judith Roberts in partnership with Chapter Arts Centre, took place in St John’s Church, Canton. The hall had a simple layout with two rows of seats on either side of the floor and two lots of scaffolding at either end of the church hall, as well as some crates dotted around. I enjoyed the atmosphere that a church brought to a Dickensian production, as the figures in the stained glass windows peered down onto the characters and the high, beam roof amplified the music and songs, it seemed very apt and a great choice of venue.
The story centres around Toby, AKA Trotty, (Matthew Jure) a poor but optimistic porter who struggles to make a living, feed himself or provide for his daughter, Lillian (Olivia Rose Aaron).
Toby has few pleasures in the world, but he speaks about always finding comfort in the bells of the near-by church. One night, after a series of horrid events, Toby. climbs the bell tower and is confronted by spirits who show him his life in six years time.
In this world, the rich have all the cards and the poor are a plague. Nothing that the former does affects the latter, and the latter should be grateful for any scraps they receive from the former!
This production was an affront of the government’s of recent years. My favourite scene of the play was when the cast read stories from the newspaper detailing he plight of the poor and down-trodden in the 17th and 18th Century, which would eventually fade into an audio clip from the likes of Boris Johnson or David Cameron telling story or quoting statistics of an almost identical situation in 21st Century. The message of his story is that the poor suffer and the rich do not care.
Another incredibly powerful moment was when Lillian; homeless and desperate visits a modern food bank where she is greeted with questions such as: “Do you have your voucher?” and “You need an address”.
The cast gave emotive, powerful and committed performances. Unexpectedly there quite a few songs throughout the show, which were sung beautifully. My personal favourite was the satirical character of Lady Blarney (Joanna Brookes) who gave the production much need comedy! She; the wife of the rich and powerful Sir Joseph Blarney MP (Rhys Parry Jones), described herself as: “Strong and Stable” and spoke about how lovely and “thoughtful” it was that food banks existed in Britain.
A truly amazing part of this production was that it included men and women who were previously homeless and gave them experience in theatre production. This was due to the fantastic work of The Wallich, The Huggard Centre, The Passage and St Mungo’s who are all charities that support homeless people.
It’s not an easy show to watch by its very nature, but it fills you with compassion and warms you with the collective spirit of solidarity amongst the working class.
The production runs until Saturday 16th December. You cannot buy tickets at the door so please pre-book or contact the Chapter Arts Centre in advance.
Finally, thank you for Chapter and WICID for the tickets to see the show. If you’re a budding writer, get in touch and get involved.
The Chimes will also be performed at St Johns, Waterloo, London on Tue 19 – Sat 30 December (not 24, 25, 26). Click here to book for the London performances.
To donate to Chapter’s Christmas campaign; The Chimes click here or text ‘CHIM35 £10’ to 70070.