ACTORS are staging a spectacular recreation of the naval ball where Charles Dickens’ mother went into labour.
The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, is hosting the lavish 1812-themed event where actors will mingle with guests who are invited to arrive in costume – or hire suits from the theatre on the night.
It will be an occasion to celebrate the ball attended by John Dickens, a naval clerk, and his wife Elizabeth, 200 years earlier to the day.
Shortly before midnight, her waters broke and she rushed home to give birth to baby Charles in the early hours of February 7.
The Groundlings, which is proud of its connection with the author, hopes residents from across Portsmouth will attend the ball – which will include a re-enactment of Elizabeth’s drama on the night.
Richard Stride, artist director and actor who will wear military uniform on the day, said: ‘I’m looking forward to the ball, which will recreate the anniversary of the lead up to Dickens’ birth.
‘It will be fun from the point of view of getting an insight into Georgian balls that took place in those days that many people take a particular interest in.
‘Hampshire Regency dancers will be teaching our ball guests some authentic moves – but we’ve made sure not to leave the lower classes out.’
Downstairs the cafe area will be transformed into Fagin’s tavern with help from The Festival Players and in the green room there will be a school house set up for youngsters to sample a Victorian school day.
‘We’ll have actors on stage playing various characters from Dickens’ books and outside there will be Victorian games like hoop and stick to get involved in,’ said Mr Stride. ‘The whole theatre will be transformed into a living museum dedicated to Dickens and his times.
‘There will definitely be something for everyone to enjoy.’
While many venues across Portsmouth will use Dickens’ birth date for a starting point to their celebrations, The Groundlings is putting on a series of events in the week leading up to his birth.
These include Dickens Living Museum Tours on January 30 and February 3 to 6 to learn more about the theatre, its heritage and its connection with the author.
A Victorious Victorians history show and workshops aimed at children will be held on January 31. A Victorian childhood workshop will take place on February 1 and 2 and a Twisted Expectations murder mystery dinner is scheduled for February 4.
To book places for any of the events including the Dickens Ball, which is preceded by a two-course meal at The Old Benny in the downstairs tavern, call 023 9273 7370.