Conn Artists return to the stage with Victorian odd-couple encounter
A rollicking Victorian odd-couple encounter between two titans of English literature is the promise as the Connaught Theatre’s resident company Conn Artists return with a UK premiere for 2021.
They are offering their Worthing audience A Perfect Likeness on July 3 at 2.30pm – a piece by Daniel Rover Singer (Reduced Shakespeare Company) which hasn’t been seen in the UK before now.
Reclusive writer and photographer Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll) invites celebrity author Charles Dickens to his Oxford home to pose for a portrait. Dickens is so intrigued by the whimsical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that he accepts. What ensues is a baring of two creative souls, the one private and fastidious, the other boisterous and irreverent. As Dodgson struggles to capture a “perfect likeness” of Dickens, Dickens craftily pries into Dodgson’s personal life to get a handle on one of the most curious men he has ever met.
The result is a hilarious and revealing conversation between two quirky, fascinating and completely different men, promises Ross Muir who will play Lewis Carroll alongside David Stephens as Charles Dickens, directed by Nick Young.
Ross is delighted to be back on the stage after doing a half-term Pinocchio panto in Worthing: “It was great fun, just a four-hander for Worthing Theatres, and we didn’t do too badly for audiences. I think we averaged about 120-140 on a reduced capacity of about 260. It didn’t feel horribly empty, but certainly very different when you are used to having 700 for panto!
“Now this is a two-hander.”
The company was going to do a bigger production of a J M Barrie play, but has now put it back to next year: “We thought it would be better to do something smaller now and to be prudent. This is a play that I had come across a few years ago, before the pandemic and I thought it would be a good one to do with Conn Artists and that I would put it on a shelf for another day. Well, that other day has now come.
“It is a fascinating play about an encounter between these two very famous writers which has never been done before in the UK. You will love it if you are a Charles Dickens or a Lewis Carroll fan, but you don’t have to be a fan of either of them to enjoy it. It is about two very different and fascinating personalities.
“You have got Dickens who is the celebrated author but who is ageing now. He has already had a lot of work published. He is established and he is famous. He is quite boisterous and irreverent and very direct and has a strong lust for life. And then you have got Charles Dodgson (who wrote as Lewis Carroll) who is a rather reclusive don with a love of photographing young girls and writing nonsense poetry and has written Alice In Wonderland.
“Through the course of the play they become friends. They become close. Neither one is what the other one is expecting, but Dickens is a hero to Charles Dodgson who is about 34 in this play, but Dodgson is an extraordinary character, a mixture of this serious mind and this whimsical artistic streak. They do have a bit of jousting as you would expect with two characters who are chalk and cheese, but ultimately there is a mutual warmth and respect between them.”
Tickets from the venue. The play will be revived for the Arundel Festival this August and will then tour in September.