Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dicken's London

Now that the pantomime season has opened in Britain with leading roles played by the Ministry of Defence, the Marines and with Ms. Faye Turney as the Good and rather large Fairy, I thought I might mention another entertainment coming your way shortly.
No, it’s not that old favourite, the Olympic Stadium fiasco, but a brand new “Theme Park” soon to open in the nether reaches of the southern Thames estuary, at Chatham to be precise.
I don’t know about you but whenever I hear the word “theme” coupled with “park,” both perfectly inoffensive words in their own right, I get a queasy feeling.
It’s the feeling you get when you find that your favourite local has been turned overnight into a “theme” pub.
And this is no common or garden type of park since it is to be devoted to the theme of Charles Dickens.
Chatham used to build fine ships for the navy in the days when Britain had a fine navy but has fallen on tough times in recent years. The naval dockyards are a sort of theme park on their own, occasionally doubling as film sets, and the new attraction will be within a bosun whistle’s blow.
“Dicken’s London” is costing a mind blowing 64 million smackeroos, although the figure seems to differ from day to day, and purports to be a reconstruction of the bits of London featured in his work. Naturally, these are more gruesome and sinister bits – Mr. Turveydrop’s academy is unlikely to feature – and can hardly be expected to be a well balanced view of London of the period, or for that matter, Dickens.
Dickens was one of the most imaginative writers of his day, one of his more descriptive pieces being his reason for dumping his wife in favour of his
Mistress, but I can’t see a theme park doing much to encourage the reading of his books. The tour apparently includes what is promoted as the longest boat ride in any such establishment, a little confusing, since the only boat sequence I can recall is in “Our Mutual Friend” where Gaffer Hexham used one to fish bodies from the Thames.
As with all such developments, much play is given to re-invigorating a depressed area. Dickens himself could be pretty depressing at times as it was a popular Victorian notion to include a few maudlin scenes in every book and the locals would probably be far less depressed if the 64 million were to be shared amongst them.
The reason for locating the park in the Chatham and Rochester area is that Dickens once lived there and frequently mentioned both places in his books.
But even the ebullient Mr. Pickwick could find little to please him in the region and Dickens appears to have hated it.
I wonder if he’ll enjoy his park?


Post a Comment

<< Home