a Highly Atmospheric One-Man Dramatisation of two Classic Short Stories, from Two of the Mightiest Pens of the Nineteenth Century

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adapted and performed by
Raymond Sargent


period music from the Thomas Hardy Collection
original music by Raymond Sargent

"The integration of the music with the dialogue was exceptional".
Glyn Foley, Chief Executive, The Buxton Festival.

Show format: Full Length: Act 1= 40 minutes. Act 2= 55 minutes

Reviews | Audio Samples | Next Performance | Previous Performances

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The Signal Man

~ Act One ~
The Signalman

by Charles Dickens

A retired wealthy industrialist feels a need to explore the new phenomenon that provided his company's sudden expansion and resounding success: the Railway System. Stumbling upon a lonely signalbox, he befriends its solitary inhabitant. A difficult initial meeting ultimately leads to an uncanny conclusion: a masterpiece of the Supernatural.

The three strangers

~ Act Two ~
The Three Strangers

by Thomas Hardy

As a storm rages outside, the snug cottage of a shepherd and his wife harbours a party in celebration of the christening of their second child. One by one, three seemingly unrelated strangers arrive, but who tells the truth and who does not in the strange relationship that develops between them? Possibly the author's most intriguing short story that borders on the genre of the classic Thriller.

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One Industrial and one Pastoral, these two stories of strange happenings are contrasting yet complementary masterpieces in their own right.

Raymond Sargent's treatment of these works harks back to the world of Storytellers, who thrilled their audiences by instilling powerful images in the mind.

With highly atmospheric sounds and music, our modern expectations are shown, once again, that the most powerful effects generator is still our own imagination!

Ray's adaptation of "The Three Strangers" was a resounding success, right from its premiere at the Thomas Hardy Society's festival in 1990, which marked the 150th anniversary of the author's birth.

Pairing this show with a similar approach to "The Signalman" has produced an event of unparalleled indulgence for those with a taste for a great story, peerlessly told.

trains and oaks
Reviews (most recent first):
"Raymond Sargent brings to life two classic short stories by two of the world's master storytellers by taking on the mantle of the various characters. In 'The Signalman', Sargent plays both men in conversation providing a clear picture of the steep incline leading down to the signal box and the unease generated when the signalman tells his unexpected visitor he has seen a ghostly figure standing at the entrance to the tunnel. The clever use of lighting and some excellent railway sound effects create an atmosphere that is almost tangible. In the second story, Sargent conveys an atmosphere of celebration which gradually becomes pregnant with suspense."

The Stage

"The audience at St Albans' Abbey Theatre were treated to a wonderful show. Mr Sargent begins the Dickens story with an atmoshphere-building preamble about the early days of the railways. He easily and convincingly plays both of the story's characters, expertly building up the tension and sense of foreboding that culminates in a spine-chilling accident. Hardy's The Three Strangers is rather more jolly, although no less atmospheric. As this story reaches its climax, the trio's close and deadly bonds are revealed. In this too Sargent did not disappoint; his flamboyant and authentic style is definitely not to be missed. Far from simply telling the stories, he brings all of the colour and tone of the authors' writings to life."

the St Albans Observer

"This was an evening of compelling storytelling. Raymond Sargent transported the Georgian's audience from a balmy summer night in Richmond into the twilight Victorian world of two classic authors, with all the suspense, mystery and unfolding detail at which Dickens and Hardy excelled. He seamlessly interwove his role as narrator with those of his characters, morphing into the action of the stories, then emerging with the narrator's modulated tones to carry the impetus of each tale a little further. Variations in suspense and mood were greatly assisted by changes of lighting and sound effects, but it was Sargent's piercing eyes and densely descriptive prose which held the audience spellbound. Both tales reflect the suspicion and uncertainty of Victorian England which was struggling to keep pace with industrialisation, the unfamiliar, the unnatural and the speed with which people could move around the land. A truly absorbing evening of delightful theatre."

The Darlington & Stockton Times.

"Sargent's mastery of dialects came over strongly, moving from working-class Lancastrian in the first tale to the broad west-country burr of Hardy's Wessex in the second. There was never a doubt as to who was speaking as he switched characters, moods, facial expressions and accents. The first story was enhanced by some extremely clever lighting, sound effects and music timed to the split second. Music also featured in the second tale, played on whistle, drum and recorder. It was a clever morality story, beautifully told, with the audience on the edge of their seats."

Guernsey Evening Press.

"Raymond Sargent is a superb storyteller. The tales were brought to life in a way I could never envisage when I first saw him on stage - alone dressed in Victorian garb and with four or five small props. It was a testament to his ability as a raconteur that, aided by a few lighting and sound affects, the large audience was drawn into his Victorian world for a tremendous evening's entertainment: a spellbinding performance. The words are magnificent but it still takes a master storyteller to so enthral an audience."

The Shields Gazette (Tyne & Wear).

"The audience was well-satisfied with the latest Customs House offering. Everything is down to his voice and movement. As the narrator his carriage is upright and his voice controlled - a true Victorian - but as he moves from character to character he changes the accent and timbre of his voice to suit, and small changes in carriage and stance are enough to make the differentiation clear. In short, he performs each character. What we see is not simple storytelling, but a play"

The British Theatre Guide.

"Two Victorian Tales certainly added a chill to an already nippy autumn evening. Multi-skilled actor Raymond Sargent brought two short stories to life using just atmospheric lighting, music and minimal props. He painted pictures so vivid that the audience was quickly lost in the thick of the action. Crowd scenes were no obstacle to Sargent, and we really felt part of the 20-strong gang of revellers at the shepherd's christening party"

the Kent Messenger.

"Anyone who doubts that a man can play a dozen characters and still make the stories convincing has not seen Raymond Sargent in action. The Dorset-born actor held his audience's attention from start to finish. You could almost imagine yourself in a theatre a hundred years ago, as Sargent slipped effortlessly into the role of the storyteller: tugging his audience this way and that as he took them through the two spooky tales"

the Salisbury Journal.

"It was easy to imagine the strange spectre observed only by the troubled signalman, and authentic sound effects added impact. In 'The Three Strangers' his expressive gestures, songs and mimes with a touch of sardonic humour was thoroughly enjoyable. He effortlessly played all the characters and kept everyone rigid with suspense as the stories unfolded. He is a loveable and roguish raconteur"

the Redditch Standard.

"With his two tales from two of England's literary giants, Raymond Sargent gives a towering performance to match. He whisked his audience off to Victorian England from the start and held us there for nearly two hours; totally engrossed at his memory challenging marathon. He played each character with splendid conviction and even provided accompanying flute and drum music. In Dickens' railway story, Sargent creates an air of chilling inevitability."

the Bournemouth Daily Echo.

"He is a man who has the knack to hold you spellbound with the interaction of his characters and his musical ability: I had no idea what to expect. My 17-year-old daughter sat focussed and you could have heard a pin drop throughout the evening. His use of facial expression, hauntingly beautiful music and atmospheric lighting meant that you were drawn into the stories and held in suspense. Diction and timing were superb; the voices of the characters suitably different so as to be able to follow their conversations with ease."

the Swindon Evening Advertiser.

"With minimal props, subtle lighting and musical accompaniment, the changing moods as he wove the tales were brilliantly captured. Possessed of a fine voice, he moved from character to character with such skill that we were by the entrance to the tunnel, in the signalbox and in the shepherd's cottage. An example of clarity of diction and voice projection and in this respect it was a masterclass: as each tale came to an end there was a sensation of slowly coming back to reality".

the Chard and Ilminster News.

"Combining and perfectly timing a wide range of facial, vocal and physical gestures, Raymond Sargent has always earned high popularity and admiration for his one-man shows. This year he successfully met the challenge of acting out two somewhat diverse Victorian tales."

the Thomas Hardy Society Journal.

"'Two Victorian Tales' opens with a one-man crowd scene, which highlights Sargent's natural gift as a storyteller. Augmented by effective use of light and sound, together with period music from the Thomas Hardy collection in Dorset and original music by Sargent himself, he is a master storyteller: able to grip an audience by the sheer brilliance of the words at his disposal. Creating atmosphere out of fresh air and characters from the pages of a book, Sargent's simple but effective theatricality shines through, demonstrating that the ancient art of storytelling can redefine stories from the page to the stage".

John Dunne: Director; Pheonix Theatre, Hants.

" An evening of pure magic; spellbinding. The successful fusion of the written word and the actor's skill. He peopled the stage with young men and old, good men and scoundrels, all recognisable and all different".

Dorset Echo

"It's quite a feat for one person to keep a whole audience gripped for an entire evening: a feat of memory, of power, of persuasion and of atmosphere: but actor and musician Ray Sargent does just that with his 'Two Victorian Tales'. He has found a way to bring them to vivid visual life; combining his versatile musical skills with his theatrical prowess."

Blackmore Vale Magazine.

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Audio Samples

The quickest and easiest way to hear the 30-second audio samples of "Two Victorian Tales" online is via Raymond's entry in "The Spotlight"
To get there,
click here and when the next page appears, click on this icon: voice clip logo which you will see immediately below the photograph. You can then select the extract that you'd like to hear.

Broadband users can easily listen to the following 30-second mp3 files (about 250K each) and if desired, you are welcome to download these files and then burn them as audio files onto a CD-R for easy reference.

Narration extract from "The Signalman" left click to hear sample or right click & "Save Target As" to save to your hard-drive
Character extract from "The Signalman" left click to hear sample or right click & "Save Target As" to save to your hard-drive
Extract from "The Three Strangers" left click to hear sample or right click & "Save Target As" to save to your hard-drive

with Period Music from the Thomas Hardy Collection
and Original Music by Raymond Sargent

With special thanks to:

John Grantham and his predecessors Richard dePeyer and Roger Peers, Curators at the Dorset County Museum, Dorchester: For providing me with access to the Hardy Family's music, and other sources.

Eddie Affleck and the National Railway Museum, York: For providing me with sounds of their replica of Stephenson's "Locomotion".

Gavin Courtie of Notepad Music Productions, Wimborne, Dorset: For mixing and mastering the sounds and for voicing my "midi" music files.

Paul McDonald, Malcolm Munro, John Hedges and the Swanage Railway Company, Dorset: For their generous assistance, and for providing the means for me to record the signalbox and train sounds.

Nigel Woodward: For the loan of the signalbox telegraphic instruments.

Malcolm Angel and the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne, Dorset: For provision of rehearsal space.

See information about the next performance.

See information about previous performances

Also, "Two Victorian Tales" holds plenty of educational potential.
Click here to take a look

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The Flyers for every performance of "Two Victorian Tales" are printed by courtesy of....

Allsorts UK, Wimborne, Dorset
(Click on logo for more information)

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Mr. Sargent's 1880's copy of The Times is provided by courtesy of....

Historic Newspapers, Newton Stewart, Scotland
(Click on logo for more information)

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