Category Archives: British Autumn 2012

A Dickensian Evening at the Bóbita

A Dickensian Evening at the Bóbita
9th November, 2012, starting at 19.00
with Ian Keable, Magician,
Simply English, musicians,
the puppeteers of Bóbita Puppet Theatre


Magician IAN KEABLE is an award-winning member of the Magic Circle. Tonight he performs from his special show, “The Magic of Charles Dickens”: not Dickens’s magical way with words, but real magic this time. Dickens was an enthusiastic amateur magician and entertained his children with his tricks. Ian has researched these tricks and now creates a Dickensian evening of magic for us.



It was many years ago that Bóbita Puppet Theatre and Simply English worked together on a Christmas video clip, The Cherry Tree Carol, but the idea of adapting ballads for the puppet stage has often been discussed. Tonight, two very different ballads will be performed by the puppeteers of Bóbita Puppet Theatre to the music of Simply English. Both of them are connected with the life of Charles Dickens.

Lord Bateman. Lord Bateman (it has many other titles) is considered the second most popular English-language folk ballad after Barbara Allen, being known all over the English-singing world. It is an old ballad that has undergone many transformations. When Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray were young writers, they came together with caricaturist George Cruickshank and produced a spoof of the ballad, which provides an early example of Dickens’s love of mock-phonetic London English. The Dickens-Thackeray-Cruickshank version can be found as a Google Book.

The story is of an English lord who decides to indulge in a bit of Mediterranean tourism, sailing off until arriving in Turkey where he is thrown into prison but rescued by the proud Turk’s daughter, who suggests that they swear to be faithful to each other for seven years, and then gives Lord Bateman one of her father’s ships. Seven years (and fourteen days) later she sets off for Northumberland and arrives at Lord Bateman’s castle on his wedding-day. As the wedding has not been consummated, he sends his bride packing with a good material compensation, and “orders another wedding”, promising never to go roving again. The story is supposed to be based on the life of Gilbert Becket, (father of Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury), who in the early Crusades was captured as in the ballad, released, and followed to London by the lady who loved him and who knew only two words of English: ‘London” and “Gilbert.” The first she used to get to London: once there, she used the other through London streets until she was united with her lover. So “Bateman“ is “Becket”.

The Murder of Maria Marten, or The Red Barn Murder is a street ballad first published in 1828 by J. Catnatch, together with a report on the murder, which was a very real and gruesome affair, and the subsequent hanging. In 1827, William Corder asked Maria, whom he’d been courting, to meet him at the red barn, after which they would go off and get married. Instead he shot her and then buried her. After several months when the parents had heard nothing from their daughter, there was an investigation and the remains of the corpse were discovered in the barn. According to the report, more than 7,000 people witnessed his hanging, but Catnatch sold 1,166,000 copies of the ballad! The murder became such a sensation that it appeared in all kinds of literature – articles, stories, plays, as well as ballads – and the village where the murder took place became a tourist attraction full of “red barn” souvenirs! At first Dickens did not want to join the crowd, but he was finally persuaded to write an article on it in his own magazine, All the Year Round.



Dave and Mandy Townsend Concert