ANDERSENS ENGLISH WORKPACK
Produced by Out of Joint 2010
Aim of Workpack
The resource materials in this pack are intended to enhance students enjoyment and understanding of Andersens English. The activities are variations of the rehearsal techniques used by Max Stafford-Clark during the production, and present creative and practical strategies for learning in a classroom setting. The workpack also works alongside the workshop that Out of Joint provides for Andersens English, led by the Artistic Director, the Associate Director or the Education Manager.
The resources are primarily aimed at students aged 16+ who are studying Drama at BTEC or A Level. The workpack is in two main sections Researching the Play and the Rehearsal Process.
Rehearsing the Play
Andersens English explores the story behind a real meeting between Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen, when the latter outstayed his welcome at Gads Hill Place in 1857. Artistic Director Max Stafford-Clark always encourages vigorous research before and during the rehearsal process, and with 9 out of the 10 characters in the play being real people, there was extensive reading on this period of history and the people themselves. This section includes an introduction into the plays setting, as well as Dickens himself and the controversy of his personal life in his later years.
Rehearsing the Play
The Associate Director Jessica Swale gives is an insight into the rehearsal process with extracts from her diary over the five weeks before opening in Bury St Edmunds.
The workpack includes an introduction into Max Stafford-Clarks rehearsal techniques such as actioning and status, as well as classroom exercises relating to the production.
We hope you find the materials interesting and enjoyable.
Part 1 : Researching the play
The Plays Setting, and Characters Page 4
A Background to Dickens Page 5
The Dickens Controversy Pages 6-7
Part 2 : Rehearsing the Play
Max Stafford Clarks Rehearsal Techniques Actioning and Analysis Pages 8-10 Exercises To Do Pages 11-12
A Trip To Gads Hill Place Pages 13-15
Associate Director Jessica Swales Diary Pages 16-19
An Interview with the playwright, Sebastian Barry Pages 20-22
The Plays Setting
Andersens English tells the story of Hans Christian Andersen reminiscing in Copenhagen in 1870 of his stay with Charles Dickens and his family at their home in Gads Hill, Kent 12 years earlier.
Dickens, a great admirer of the Danish writer, invited him to stay for two weeks during that summer; Andersen outstayed this welcome by three weeks.
The sudden death of Dickens older and much loved friend Douglas Jerrold in June 1857 deeply affected Dickens, and he spent much of the summer away from Gads Hill organising readings and performances to raise money for Jerrolds family. This left Andersen a lot of the time with his wife Catherine, sister-in-law Georgina and their children.
The play opens and closes with Andersen prompted to talk about his visit on news of Dickens sudden death, at the age of just 58, in 1870. He speaks in hindsight of the collapse in Dickens marriage that led to their separation and Catherines banishment from the family home and her children.
But Andersen does not recall the growing tensions in the Dickens household, greatly due to his hesitant grasp of the English language, and perhaps also due to his huge admiration for Charles and his desire to be accepted and loved.
The Characters of the Play:
Charles Dickens Aged 46 in 1857 when Andersen comes to stay
Anderson Aged 65 when he reminisces, 52 when he visits Gads Hill
Catherine Dickens wife; aged 42
Walter Dickens son; aged 16
Kate Dickens daughter, aged 19
Georgie (Georgina) Catherines younger unmarried sister, aged 30
Aggie The maid in the Dickens household, aged 16
Ellen Ternan an Irish actress, 18 is doubled with Kate.
Stefan a young Danish friend of Andersens, 18 is doubled with Walt
A Background to Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens, arguably Englands all time greatest novelist was born in Portsmouth in 1812. In 1821 his financially stable childhood in Chatham came to an abrupt end when his father, John Dickens, was imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtors prison in Southwark, London for spending beyond his means in entertaining and the general maintaining of his social position. The family soon joined him in residence there, while Charles boarded at family friend Elizabeth Roylance in Camden Town, North London.
To pay for Charles board and help his family, Dickens began working ten-hour days at Warrens Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs near Charing Cross. His job was pasting labels on jars of show polish, which earned him six shillings a week. The treatment of employees, particularly children in the early 19th Century was unregulated, extremely strenuous and often exceedingly cruel, and this made a deep impression on Charles. It undoubtedly influenced later characters, novels and essays, and also formed the foundation of his interest in the reform of labour and socio-economic conditions.
In 1836 Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. Catherine was from a wealthy and established family, and although Dickens was to go on to become the most famous writer in Britain, at the time it was a match slightly above his social standing.
Catherine, who bore him 10 children, suffered emotional and physical strain from the many births, and her unmarried sister Georgina joined the Dickens household to help raise the children.
At the time the play is set, Charles has just learned of the sudden death of his beloved friend, the writer Douglas Jerrold. Soon after Andersens five week visit ended, he formally separated from his wife Catherine. In the 19th Century it was expected that Charles would remain the primary carer for his children, and so Catherines banishment from him and their home meant that she did not see her children again. Georgina did not return to her family when Catherine was sent to London, and instead remained at Gads Hill until Charles death in 1870.
It is argued that the catalyst for Catherine and Charles separation was the 17 year old actress Ellen Ternan. Ellen performed in his amateur theatre company in Wilkie Collins A Frozen Deep to raise money for Jerrolds family. Charles fell in love, and maintained a secret relationship with Ellen until his death. The exact details of their association are not concretely known, and continue to fuel debate amongst Dickens scholars.
The Dickens Controversy
Andersens Englishs focus on Dickens family life, in particular the breakdown of his marriage, could be deemed controversial. While Charles relationship with Ellen Ternan is widely known, the banishment of his wife and continued companionship with her sister is less so.
If one looks at the Wikipedia entry of Charles Dickens for example, in the 16 pages that cover his personal and professional life there is nothing of his marriage breakdown. All that is said of Catherine is that she bore him 10 children and accompanied him on his first tour of America (which she reluctantly did, not wishing to leave the children for 3 months). Georgina is said to have joined the family over that time to help with the younger children and remained with them as housekeeper, organiser, adviser and friend until her brother-in-laws death in 1870.
In the 19th Century if a marriage separation was demanded by the husband (for reasons of insanity on her part, for example) it was necessary for him to remain with the children in the family home. As a result, Catherine was forbidden from seeing her children, and she never saw her husband again. There is no evidence to suggest that Georgie and Charles had a sexual relationship, in fact Charles ordered the doctors to examine her to prove she was a virgin. An extreme measure perhaps, but in the 19th Century a relationship with a sister or brother-in-law was tantamount to incest. These statements are undisputed facts; Catherine was sent away, and Georgie remained in the house, and yet they are not widely known.
Perhaps it is unnecessary to delve into the story of Dickens failed marriage. Perhaps his body of work should speak for itself. Many scholars, writers and members of the public are fascinated by this period in Dickens life, his breakdown some argue, which was also near the time he began his relationship with the 19 year old actress Ellen Turnan.
His affair with Ellen continues to be debated, and there is a school of thought that while they were companions, their relationship was never sexual. This of course can be neither proven nor disproved.
In the play three of Dickens sons feature: Walter (aged 16), Charlie (aged 18) and Plorn (aged 6), with Charlie and Plorn as puppets manipulated by the actors, leaving Walter the only real son onstage. Walter was sent to fight in the army in India by his father at 16, despite desperate protestations by Catherine and Walter himself. The biographer Michael Slater admits that Dickens was, not uncommon at the time, rather dismissive of his own part in the size of his family. During the dinner scene on the first night of Andersens stay in Act One there is the following exchange between Charles and Catherine:
DICKENS: Well, that is an awful lot of singing. I am afraid I will be much in town now myself, if I am to make arrangements for Jerrolds family. At least there are only five children. It was my fate to have so great a crowd of