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After Dark Virtual Performances from Dickens's Home, Charles Dickens Museum

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This Hallowe’en, the Charles Dickens Museum will present spellbinding performances of three chilling tales by Charles Dickens, including a story that Dickens himself was afraid to perform. Livestreamed by candlelight, actor Dominic Gerrard, renowned for his one-man performances of A Christmas Carol, will bring the stories chillingly to life, as he makes his way through Dickens’s Georgian townhouse after dark.

Oliver Twist combines poverty, petty crime, brutal murder, romance, friendship and heroism. In the notorious ‘Sikes and Nancy’, Nancy is followed at night over London Bridge, wrongly accused of betraying Sikes’ gang and confronted by Bill Sikes himself. Dickens’s brutal and tragic episode horrified his readers, shocked audiences whenever he performed it and still resonates powerfully today.

It was not until his 1868 farewell tour that Dickens introduced the brutal scene into his repertoire. Dickens was so concerned about the ferocious violence that he gathered a group of friends and critics to see him perform it, so he could view the effect on his audience. In the end, ‘Sikes and Nancy’ became Dickens’s most popular reading, and he revelled in its impact.

Sometimes after performing it, Dickens was unable to move. His pulse rate was at its highest after performing ‘Sikes and Nancy’ compared with his other readings. Dickens’s reading tour was cut short in April 1870 due to concerns about his health. Dickens died two months later.

Among the other tales to be performed by Dominic Gerrard are The Ghost in the Bride's Chamber, one of Dickens’s more rarely-performed ghost stories, packed with masterful suspense and humour. And in The Signalman, a strange figure lurks at the mouth of a tunnel. Each time it appears, a terrible tragedy occurs on the line. Written only a year after Dickens himself survived the Staplehurst Rail Crash, the story finds the author grappling with his trauma, his conflicted feelings of fear and wonder at the new railways, and a desperate yearning to know in advance where danger lies.

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Photo, Crowds enjoying Garden of Light, by TILT. Lumiere London 2016, produced by Artichoke, supported by Mayor of London. Credit Matthew Andrews 2016.

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Photo, Jennie Gill, Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield. Photo Our Favourite Places / Nigel Barker for Yorkshire Artspace.