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9Dec/110

Audio Drama Review: A Dickens Holiday Sampler

Say, "Charles Dickens" and "Christmas" and people will almost assuredly think of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Jacob Marley. A Christmas Carol has been adapted countless times with new adaptations coming every year or so with the latest being the 2009 version starring Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman.

Yet Charles Dickens and Christmas was more than a one story affair. Dickens wrote several more Christmas stories after the Christmas Carol. Most of which are lesser known, but still have their own charm. In A Charles Dickens Holiday Sampler, Colonial Radio Theatre brings two of these tales to radio.

The Cricket on the Hearth centers on a carrier named  John Peerybingle, who is married to a much younger woman named Dot.  Interesecting with Perrybingle is an older toymaker named Tackleton who wants to marry a younger woman, and a poor toymaker who tries to shield his blind daughter from the cruelties of life. Throughout the story, the Crickets on the hearth play a magical role as a sign of blessing and even prevent our hero from committing a tragic wrong. A redemptive element is present in this story, just as with the Christmas Carol. The story is touching but did tend a little towards melodrama towards the end. Still, it had richness in it. It's atypical for Dickens' storiess as it reminds me more of Shakespeare's lighter works with its fantasy romance element.

Seven Poor Travellers was a stunning surprise. It began with a narrator (presumably Dickens himself) stumbling upon the Six Poor Travellers House and endeavoring to service Christmas dinner to the travellers. Once it's all arranged, the narrator tells the poor travellers a story and Dickens tells his readers a story within a story about a young man who joins the military to forget a lost love and get himself killed. Instead, he finds a redemption and a lifelong friend. The story within the story is powerful and Dickens' final lines after the poor travellers departed is one of the best quotes on Christmas ever.

While both Dickens stories are solid, Colonial clearly outdid itselft with Seven Poor Travellers,  which was the harder story to dramatize well given its odd structure. As a set, the two stories are a wonderful way to get in the Christmas mood.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars

Note: If you are an Audible Member, the digital download of this program (both stories) is only $2.95 each which is a fantastic price for these great productions.

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