This week the British government announced new lockdown measures which place London in the very highest tier of restrictions. Many people’s work and social lives will be affected by this measure but it was absolutely necessary as the infection rates in the capital city were doubling every five days and beginning to spiral out of control. For me this has meant the cancellation of eight shows over the course of the next week which were due to be performed in one of the most prestigious locations in the city: The Hotel Café Royal on Regent’s Street. The relationship with the Café Royal is a new one for this year and together we were greatly looking forward to entertaining guests with my performance of A Christmas Carol whilst they ate a sumptuous afternoon tea in the spectacular gilded and mirrored surroundings of the Oscar Wilde Lounge.
We are very hopeful that we can reschedule, and perform early in the new year, so watch this space!
The disappointment of the loss of my opportunity to experience the luxury of the Café Royal was slightly mollified by today’s phone memory photographs, for this was the day a few years ago when I was performing at one of my favourite USA venues: The Williamsburg Inn in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg.
The Inn is a truly elegant and spectacular hotel with surroundings and service of the highest calibre. Each suite (no such thing as something so mundane as a ‘room’ there) is different and furnished with items of antique furniture, whilst soft music purrs from a Bose sound system. Coffee makers sit ready to fill tiny china cups which will sit on tiny china saucers. The bath tubs are the size of small swimming pools and the towels are soft and fluffy. I have visited Williamsburg for many many years now and have formed a great relationship with the staff, as well as with the guests who return each year to watch my shows.
Any stay at The Williamsburg Inn is special but on a few occasions I have been very fortunate to be given the suite that was used by the Queen herself when she visited in 2007. Oh what luxury! As I entered and walked from room to room I imagined the Queen doing the same: Her Majesty sat on that sofa, she wrote at that desk, she slept in that bed, and in the bathroom….no, I couldn’t allow myself to imagine her in there!
As would have happened at The Café Royal I always performed during a meal service at the Inn, either afternoon tea or dinner, and all of the events were held in the beautiful Regency Room. My ‘stage’ is on the dance floor in the centre of the room and the tables are set all around meaning that I can roam and run into the audience and even cajole individuals to become part of the story, which is always fun.
I have may close friends in Williamsburg, most especially Ryan Fletcher – a gentle giant who always made my introductions at the beginning of each performance. Ryan is an opera singer, who passes his great knowledge and skill to students at the nearby William & Mary College. Ryan and I have shared many convivial evenings discussing life on the road and on occasion we have been fortunate enough to be joined by his wife Jeannie, and also Liz who for a few years was able to fly from England to join me for the last week or so of my tours and share the luxury of The Williamsburg Inn.
A few years ago I was asked to do a photo and video shoot for the marketing team at Williamsburg, the team set me up in one of the lounges where I was surrounded by lights, flash units and reflectors. Would I mind simply reading from A Christmas Carol while they captured the footage that they needed and during that afternoon my show changed completely.
As I relaxed into an armchair I realised that the a simple telling of the story was much more effective than the overly dramatic way I was currently utilising. I used to be scared if I didn’t get emphasis from every single word, so a passage of charming dialogue was used like a sledge hammer to batter my audiences into submission: EV-ER-Y SYL-L-A-BLE WAS EMPH-A-SISED TO MAKE IT MORE DRA-MA-TIC! There was no light and shade. For that evening’s show I decided to try in a new style and the show was transformed, it became much more personal and re-captured the beautiful device that Charles Dickens used to place the narrator at the reader’s shoulder. It is for this reason that in the film version I have used lots of narrative direct to the camera.
So, my 2020 Christmas season has been culled a little further but there are still two events that have survived: in Liverpool and Henley. keep your fingers crossed!
To watch my film version of A Christmas Carol go to: http://www.geralddickens.com/films.html