It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
This post contains something a little different for what originally set out to be, mostly, a photo-blog. Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to sit through a fast paced, exciting and truly epic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities on Saturday 8th October. I must confess that, as a graduate in English Literature, I am a lover of Dickens. His works have always captivated me and so when I was presented with the chance to go and see this epic, adapted for the stage, I jumped at the opportunity.
Artfully adapted by Mike Poulton and directed by James Dacre, A Tale of Two Cities revivedall of the love that I have for Dickens’ work. In the 150 minutes of stage time, which holds the attention of the audience for it entirety, one sees the brilliantly constructed and perfectly paced tale, set between London and Paris which has moments of joy, despair, fear and awe.
The iconic opening lines, which everyone can feel some degree of sympathy with, are spoken at the opening of the play, almost as a chorus. The aristocratic, rich, profess that ‘it was the best of times’, whilst the poor and dishevelled confess that ‘it was the worst of times’. As I sat and experienced the opening minutes to this two and a half hour epic, I knew that I was about to watch something very special. Following this, the court room scene in which Charles Darney, played by Jacob Ifan, pleads his innocence, only to be saved by Sydney Carton (Joseph Timms) at the last minute is a joy to watch as the whole play goes from strength to strength. Not once does it release the audience from its grasp until the final curtain falls.
One of the things which is most incredible to observe is the sense of scale that A Tale of Two Cities has. With what appears to be a cast of hundreds, it comes as a large surprise to see such a large amount of character doubling. The Paris mob, the court room jury and the citizens of London appear vast but are entirely authentic in appearance. Meanwhile, the costumes and set design by Ruth Hall and Mike Britton, which are accompanied excellently by Paul Keogan’s lighting, make for a truly thrilling experience.
One final commendation however, must go to Joseph Timms. His final soliloquy, portraying the self-destructive Sydney Carton, is some of the most brilliant, heartrending and genuine pieces of acting I have ever bared witness to. Carton finally finds peace in the conclusion to A Tale of Two Cities, he battles his demons and ultimately finds peace. His final lines still give me goose bumps just to think about and certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
If you’re in England and want to see a superb piece of drama then please, go and see A Tale of Two Cities, you will not be disappointed. The remainder of the tour is in Blackpool, Wolverhampton, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Until next time,