Dickens schoolchildren mark writer’s birthday

ROLES Georgia Nicholls, Stephanie O'Connell, Kimberley Gurley, Matthew Moffatt (at the front), Imogen Rogers, Katy Deadman, Sadia Tasnim and Adetayo Adeniran from ''Charles Dickens Junior School, and inset, Simon Callow.  Picture: 'Allan Hutchings (120074-504)
ROLES Georgia Nicholls, Stephanie O'Connell, Kimberley Gurley, Matthew Moffatt (at the front), Imogen Rogers, Katy Deadman, Sadia Tasnim and Adetayo Adeniran from ''Charles Dickens Junior School, and inset, Simon Callow. Picture: 'Allan Hutchings (120074-504)
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CHILDREN at Charles Dickens Juniors are to give a performance of the works of the literary legend who gave their school its name.

A group of eight youngsters from the school in Buckland, Portsmouth, will read extracts from Oliver Twist to a private audience at the New Theatre Royal on February 7.

Simon Callow

Simon Callow

The 10 and 11-year-olds have already started practising their lines which they hope will impress guests including the city’s Lord Mayor, members of the Dickens family and actor Simon Callow.

Pupil Stephanie O’Connell, 11, said: ‘I’m excited. I can’t wait to go on stage and represent my school at such an important occasion.

‘I’m going to enjoy myself as Oliver Twist is my favourite Dickens book.

‘Even though it was written a long time ago it feels relevant today.

‘The nice thing about Dickens is that he writes things as he sees them.

‘I hope when I get on stage I do a good reading and don’t let my school down.’

Sadia Tasnim, 11, said: ‘I love reading out loud to my mum but I’ve never done it on stage so I am a little nervous.

Oliver Twist is a fantastic book, full of adventure and with lots of interesting characters.

‘It’s not often that you get a chance to bring a book to life in front of a famous actor – I’ve seen Mr Callow on TV before and I hope I can impress him on the day.

‘I feel honoured to have been chosen out of lots of pupils in my school. It means a lot to me, especially as our school was named after Dickens and he’s a great author.’

Imogen Rogers, 10, added: ‘Performing in front of Mr Callow is definitely going to make me more nervous but I’ll be practising hard to make sure I do my best on the day.

‘I do like Oliver Twist. It will be fun recreating the voices and the characters to make the words fly off the pages.’

The children’s readings will precede Mr Callow performing excerpts from his new book Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World.

Fiona Wilson, campaign director at the New Theatre Royal and fundraiser for the Charles Dickens Statue Fund, which are jointly hosting the event, said: ‘We are delighted the children are going to be involved in celebrating Dickens’ birthday.

‘It is a big boost for literacy in the city and we are looking forward to seeing them on stage.

‘They will have an impressive audience – I think they are very brave.’