Hans Christian Andersen and Dickens, new play

This video is called Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

By Paul Foley in Britain:

Andersen’s English

Friday 12 March 2010

When Hans Christian Andersen arrived unexpectedly at the home of Charles Dickens, he thought he had arrived in a little piece of English paradise.

To him this large bustling family appeared to be the epitome of Englishness.

But the truth was very different – the family was beset with domestic tension.

Dickens may have been a champion of the poor and downtrodden but in his domestic life he could be cruel and dictatorial.

He banished his wife Catherine to London to live out her life in isolation.

And he scattered his sons to the four corners of the globe and abandoned his young maid when she became pregnant by his son Walter.

Sebastian Barry, probably the best playwright writing in English today, has written a beautiful evocation of this encounter and paints a quiet picture of a bemused Andersen watching the storm clouds gather over the Dickens‘s household.

This is an absorbing and hugely intelligent play, excellently served by Max Stafford-Clark and his wonderful Out of Joint Theatre company, who deliver an inventive and polished production.

The acting is first rate with a heart-breaking performance from Niamh Cusack as Dickens’s much put upon wife Catherine.

Runs until March 27 at the Salisbury Playhouse, then tours to Clwyd Theatre, Mold from March 30 to April 3 and Hampstead Theatre, London from April 7 to May 8. Box office: (020) 7606-4455

While waiting for its new home to be completed in 2014, Manchester Library Theatre has led a nomadic life as it moves between different venues across the city. For its summer production it has taken the unusual step of setting Charles Way’s adaptation of Dickens’ Hard Times in the disused Murrays’ Mills in Ancoats: here.

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