Charles Dickens: The Haunted Man

Written: 2001

First Performed: Pitlochry Theatre

The play is set in Gad's Hill, in the huge house Dickens saw as a child, out walking with his father, and imagined to be a fitting house for someone rich and famous. In later life he was able to buy the house, and live out his dream.

It was from this house that he set out on his celebrated and hugely successful public readings; and it was in this garden that he was seen, the night before his death, rehearsing and re-living the most notorious and terrifying reading of them all: Bill Sikes murdering Nancy.

In his real readings, Dickens took care not to offend his audience, or introduce controversial political or religious material. In this play I imagine him preparing a new reading; and this allows me, at least, to be freed from such restraints.

I wanted to achieve two things: to create an event that has a strong and recognisable story line through it; and to select works - often less familiar works - that show his incredible range as a writer. So there are extracts from his work as an essayist, satirist, story-teller, fantastic dialogue writer, and also a writer with the most amazing descriptive powers.

I also wanted to demonstrate his emotional range - angry, tender, immensely funny, despairing - and also the side of him that tends to get written off as sentimental, but which seems to me to be an incredibly courageous attempt to fight off the depths of angry despair.