Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

Charles Dickens was as much a performer as a writer; in fact towards the end of his life he made much more money from his “readings” in England and the US than he did from his writing. For these readings he chose extracts from his books (or stories he had written) to which his audience would strongly react emotionally, and adapted them for performance. This is a re-creation of such a Dickensian performance.
THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH (A fairy tale of home)
The third of Dickens’ five Christmas books, The Cricket on the Hearth was published in December 1845. It contains no social criticism, nor does it reference current events or topical themes; it is simply a sentimental fantasy in a domestic setting – a depiction of the Victorian ideal of the happy home.

The Peerybingles seem to be happily married, despite John the carrier being much older than Mary (who he calls Dot). A mysterious old deaf stranger comes to stay with them, and it is announced that Mary’s close friend May Fielding is to marry the nasty old toy-maker Tackleton. Then John comes to believe that Dot has been faking her love for him, and really wants to leave him. Who is the stranger? Will the Peerybingles’ marriage survive? And what will become of Mary’s other close friend, the blind Bertha Plummer, who had dreamed of marrying Tackleton herself, because her over-protective father Caleb had always deceived her into believing that Tackleton was really a good kind man.

The book was a huge commercial success, and there have been many adaptations for the stage, radio, television and film; it is also the basis for at least two operas.

His adaptation of The Cricket was one of Dickens’ first readings, but it was soon dropped from his repertoire, and the reading itself (his prompt-copy) has not survived. Accordingly Mr. Macdougall has produced his own adaptation (mainly a condensation) and that is what you will experience today.

Characters in the reading:
Mrs Mary Peerybingle (Dot)
John Peerybingle – Mary’s husband - a carrier – much older than Mary
Tilly Slowboy – the Peerybingle baby’s nurse
A deaf old stranger
Mr Tackleton – toy-maker – a nasty old man
Caleb Plummer – a poor employee of Tackleton
Bertha Plummer – Caleb’s blind daughter – a friend of Mary’s - also an employee of Tackleton
May Fielding – a friend of Mary’s – Tackleton’s fiancé
Mrs Fielding - May’s mother

Some terms explained:
Carrier- a transporter of goods or people for a fee
Dutch clock – see picture below

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