Sunday, 10 September 2017

One To Watch: Bleak House in Bath

The Jane Austen Festival and a Charles Dickens’ novel on stage makes for a highly literary week in Bath!

If you’ve seen lots of people wandering around the city this week wearing period costume, and
you’ve wondered what’s going on, then be rest assured that Bath is not in the beginning stages of a time warp back to the 1800s, but is hosting the fourteenth annual Jane Austen Festival.

Unsurprisingly, given that this is a special year for the author as it is the bicentenary year of her death and so the whole country has gone a bit Austen-obsessed, there are lots of people in the city taking part and attending some of the events that are taking place throughout the week. That having been said, this week also sees a great event taking place which celebrates the work of another famous author who had strong ties to Bath – Charles Dickens.

Dickens first came to Bath in 1835 when he was working as a newspaper reporter, covering election campaigns across the country for the Morning Chronicle. He stayed at the Saracen’s Head pub in Broad Street (which is still a pub which you can visit and drink in to this day) while he was working, but later on in his career he had made friends in Bath and often visited his friend Walter Savage Landor at his home at 35 St. James Square, and he took to staying at the York House Hotel on George Street (which is now a Travel lodge and bars).

While Dickens was staying in Bath he created the character of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, and it’s said that the shop he based his fictional shop on is one which was just through the archway next to number 35 (the shop retains its large shopfront-style window but is now a private home). Dickens also famously satirized Bath’s social life in his 1836-1837 novel, The Pickwick Papers. Mr Pickwick was almost certainly based on Moses Pickwick, the then landlord of the White Hart Inn (now Costa Coffee on the corner of Stall Street and Westgate Street).

However, this week the Dickens work which will be in Bath is that of Bleak House – the story of multiple characters and sub-plots revolving around a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jardyce; a case of several conflicting wills. An immersive stage adaptation of Dickens’ famous book is set for a brief four-show run at Bath Spa University Theatre, from September 14th to September 16th, with a matinee at 2:30pm on the Saturday in addition to the evening performance at 7:30pm.   

The evening begins with an immersive experience which recreates the dark world of the lower
orders of Victorian London, with the likes of pick pockets, drunks and con artists, and Victorian street food cooked fresh for the wandering audience. Then comes the full performance of the eleventh most-read book in the English language, with the themes of love, power, flawed legal systems and tough choices as relevant today as ever. When this show premiered in 2015 in Bournemouth it garnered standing ovations every night.

“Visual, physical and provocative”; we have high hopes for it!

If you want to know more details are at and tickets are £15.

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