The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

Written by Charles Dickens (adapted by David Penrose)

Thursday 3rd May to Saturday 5th May and Tuesday 8th May to Saturday 12th May 1990

Directed by David Penrose

For the first time in any stage - The Bench Theatre presents a NEW adaptation of Dickens' brilliant comic novel. PERFORMED IN TWO PARTS, on consecutive evenings, by a company of 27 actors, 'Martin Chuzzlewit' tells the story of two men who share the same name and the same selfish pride which pulls them apart. Disinherited by his grandfather for loving unwisely, young Martin seeks adventure and fortune in America, while at home the Chuzzlewit family is plunged into a spiral of deceit and corruption which leads, ultimately, to murder.

AuthorCharles Dickens adapted byDavid Penrose

Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870)

Author of the original novel on which this play was based, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth and was lucky enough to be sent to school at the age of nine. This was for only a short time, however, as his father was imprisoned for debt soon after. He began his literary career as a journalist, becoming parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle in 1833. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth and within the same month came the publication of the highly successful 'Pickwick Papers'.

His written works include over a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories, a handful of plays, and several non-fiction books. He also published an autobiography, edited weekly periodicals and administered charitable organisations. He was also a theatre enthusiast and performed before Queen Victoria in 1851. He had a strong social conscience and wanted to bring to public notice the injustice he saw all around him. Much of Dickens' work is incisive commentary which exposes the reality of the harshness of working class life. He spent much time abroad - for example lecturing against slavery in the United States. He was estranged from his wife in 1858 after the birth of their ten children, but maintained relations with his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. After he died of a stroke, he was buried at Westminster Abbey.

David Penrose (b 1950)

David Penrose is an amateur actor, designer, director and writer with Bench Theatre, where he has been a member since 1976.

David penned his first writing, revue sketches, at Leeds University when he was an under-graduate. Apart from these, most of his writing has been adaptations for the stage of extant work. In 1980 he adapted 'The Brothers' and 'The Merchant', originally written by Plautus, both of which were staged by Bench Theatre in the open air at Fishbourne Roman Palace. He has adapted Martin Chuzzlewit (also performed by The Bench), compiled the 1981 musical revue 'The Only Way to Cross' and (together with Dik Bird) adapted the Bench production of 'A Frankenstein' which was taken to the Edinburgh Fridge Festival in 1982.

David's creative flair has been employed many times with Bench Theatre where he has been responsible for countless poster and set designs and he has occupied committee roles on many occasions - notably as Chair for five years - during his membership. As an actor, David's first Bench role was as Orlando in Ingrid Corrigan's production of 'As You Like It' in 1977. He appears regularly in Bench plays and reviews of his performances are consistently outstanding. He has won numerous acting awards including The News 'Guide' Awards and an All-England Theatre Festival Award. His directorial debut with Bench Theatre was 'The Philanthropist' in 1978. David was instrumental in the formation of the annual Havant Literary Festival in 2008 and continues to work with its organisation. He is also part of 'The News' theatre review team and his reviews of local productions appear regularly in print. David is currently Bench Archivist and lives in Havant with his wife Jacquie.

PlayThe Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

'The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit' was originally a serialised novel, published from January 1843 to July 1844. The plot centres around the efforts of Martin to make his fortune and marry the woman he loves and spans eighteen months.

Young Martin Chuzzlewit falls in love with Mary, the servant of his controlling and aged grandfather. The grandfather refuses permission for them to marry and disowns young Martin, who leaves to become apprentice to the dishonest and despicable Mr Pecksniff. This apprenticeship does not last however, and Martin is evicted when his Grandfather hears of the arrangement and disapproves. Martin makes his way to the United States, in the company of a kind man called Mark Tapley, to start a new life. After nearly dying of malaria, they both return to England where Martin begs his grandfather to be able to marry Mary but the grandfather still refuses. Further trials and tribulations ensue, when relations of the main protagonists are involved in a massive insurance fraud and possible murder, but a happy ending is achieved when Martin and Mary are allowed to marry and the grandfather is revealed to be a kind and good man after all.

The novel is relatively famous for its anti-American stance and it appears that Dickens added those passages after early sales proved disappointing. This adaptation, written by Bench Theatre member, David Penrose, was premiered by Bench Theatre in 1990.

The Bench Production

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


The Chuzzlewit Family

Martin Chuzzlewit SnrStuart Hartley
Martin Chuzzlewit JnrSimon Norton
Anthony ChuzzlewitTerry Cattermole
Jonas ChuzzlewitSteven Foden
Seth PecksniffJohn Scadding
Charity PecksniffJane Hemsley-Brown
Mercy PecksniffLucia Favarin
Mr SpottletoeLaurie Noble
Mrs SpottletoeRita de Bunsen
Mrs NedJacquie Penrose
Mrs Ned's DaughtersBecky Price
Beth Callen
George ChuzzlewitMark Wakeman
The Grand-NephewDavid Balthazor
The Deaf CousinNicola Scadding
Chevy SlymeSteve Newcombe


Tom PinchVincent Adams
John WestlockDavid Hemsley-Brown
Mark TapleyAlan Jenkins
Mary GrahamKatrin Johannes
Mrs LupinNicola Scadding
Montague TiggDavid Penrose
Pecksniff's stable-boyRob Finn
Pecksniff's horseTerry Cattermole
Salisbury LandlordMark Bardell
OstlerNeil Kendall


BaileyNeil Kendall
Mrs TodgersRobbie Cattermole
Mr JinkinsLaurie Noble
Mr GanderMark Bardell
Mr PardiggleAndrew Caple
Mr PykeSteve Newcombe
Mr SpouterDavid Hemsley-Brown
Mr WhelkGrant Best
Mr PipchinMark Wakeman
Augustus ModdleRob Finn
Ruth PinchBeth Callen
SophiaKatrin Johannes
The FootmanSteven Foden
ChuffneyAndrew Caple

More Wiltshire

Salisbury WaitressRita de Bunsen
BillGrant Best
Bill's HorseNeil Kendall

London Again

London LandlordLaurie Noble
David CrimpleSteve Newcombe

New York

NewsboysDavid Balthazor
Steve Newcombe
Mark Wakeman
Grant Best
Colonel DiverLaurie Noble
Captain of 'The Screw'Andrew Caple
Major PawkinsStuart Hartley
IrishNicola Scadding
Jefferson BrickNeil Kendall
Mr BevanMark Bardell
CiceroAndrew Caple

More London

Dr JoblingMark Wakeman
Jobling's Assistants Steve Newcombe
David Penrose
Mrs GampRita de Bunsen
Mr MouldMark Bardell
TackerDavid Hemsley-Brown
Mould's MournersDavid Penrose
Steve Newcombe
Grant Best
Neil Kendall
PriestStuart Hartley

Watertoast, U.S.A.

General ChokeDavid Hemsley-Brown
Mr Lafayette KettleVincent Adams
Captain KedgickDavid Balthazor
ScadderSteve Newcombe
Putnam SmiffRob Finn
A Daughter of AmericaJacquie Penrose
Steamboat PassengerLaurie Noble

Eden, U.S.A.

EdenersNicola Scadding
Vincent Adams
Hannibal ChollopMark Wakeman

More London Again

BullamyLaurie Noble
Betsey PrigJacquie Penrose
LewsomeGrant Best
'Bull' LandladyBeth Callen
'Bull' ChambermaidBecky Price
Poll SweedlepipeTerry Cattermole
NadgettMark Bardell
PipLaurie Noble
WolfJohn Scadding

More Wiltshire

JaneBecky Price
The Member for SalisburyRob Finn
Salisbury LadyRita de Bunsen

The Last of London

The Copper Founder and Mr FipsTerry Cattermole
The Copper Founder's wifeNicola Scadding
Tigg's DriverDavid Balthazor


Director David Penrose
Stage Management Howard Cawte
Peter Corrigan
Assistant Stage Management Peter Le Feuvre
Matthew Loten
Ingrid Corrigan
Properties Ingrid Corrigan
Peter Corrigan
Lighting Simon Wilcox
Sound Rob Thrush
Andy Goldberg
Costumes Jacquie Penrose
Jane Hemsley-Brown
Costume Assistants Rita de Bunsen
Judy Balthazor
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction David Hemsley-Brown
Music Composed by Paul Mizen
Front of House Lisa Thomas

Programme Notes

'Martin Chuzzlewit' is the last of the apprentice novels written by Dickens. It is the final example of Dickens writing in the 18th Century manner where the young hero is sent off on a journey, meets interesting characters on the way and ends up a changed and wiser person. This was the old fashioned rather slapdash pattern of novel writing Dickens was drawn to copy at the start of his career rather that the tighter type of novel written by Jane Austen.

But by 1840 Dickens he decided he had to change and he would make the change in writing 'Martin Chuzzlewit. However, not everything changed. As in earlier novels, the characters in Chuzzlewit are seen to be "performing" showing off to themselves, to each other and to the Great World itself. There is (the familiar) strong combination of the heroic and the domestic with a warm-hearted celebration of the normal, the near normal and the downright eccentric. As ever there is a smell of the footlights. Dickens was an amateur actor and director of high standing and intended when young to turn professional but he caught the flu and missed his audition. Later in life her said that what he should have done was not write a lot of books but he should have mounted production sin a National Theatre. There is a way of seeing Dickens novels in fact as being scripts, screen plays and storyboards even, for plays and films. since the novels first came out they have been continually staged and filmed: The Russians being particularly faithful in their desire to play them, using the stories, of course, for social criticism. The RSC made a resounding success of its two-part 'Nicholas Nickleby' - a near relative of 'Martin Chuzzlewit' and David Lean got it pretty well right with 'Oliver Twist' and 'Great Expectations'.

But one of the least staged and filmed is 'Martin Chuzzlewit'. This is because this one is special. This is the one where Dickens changed. The old wandering picaresque story form is not rejected but it is combined with a new interest in plot making: there is a discovery of psychology influenced maybe by the appearance of the Bronte sisters in print: and there is also a new hardness, even harshness which appears amongst all the sparkle and vivacity. This is the novel where Dickens starts to get himself together for the great leap forward into 'Dombey and Son', 'David Copperfield', 'Bleak House' and all the other big ones. 'Chuzzlewit' is special.

John Scadding

Production Photographs