The Chimes by Charles Dickens, adapted by John Clifford

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BBC Radio 7, 31 December 2009
This charming adaptation of Dickens' short story returned to the theme of time, explored in Radio 4's recent version of Our Mutual Friend. It is eleven o'clock p.m. on New Year's Eve, and Trottie Veck (Ron Cook) looks back on the old year, while expecting - perhaps optimistically - that the new year will bring about a change in his fortunes. He spends his life running errands for other people, receiving very little money in return, while trying to support his daughter Meg (Helen Longworth). He seems to be one of society's victims, proceeding inevitably towards death with little hope of self-determination.
But "The Chimes" is a Christmas story, rather than a novel, offering some hope for the future. In Gaynor MacFarlane's production, this was provided by Dickens himself (Sean Murray) who, in common with other adaptations, assumed a controlling presence within the story. Rather than consigning Trottie to his predetermined end, he allowed the old man to see into the future; like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, he saw what awaited him. He met a premature death; his daughter seemed willing to commit suicide; while her fiance turned out to be a wastrel. Yet this destiny was not set in stone: as the chimes struck every quarter of an hour, and the New Year drew nearer and nearer, so Dickens became more and more optimistic in his view. So long as Trottie and his family bonded together, and realized the importance of their family structure (however small it might be), then they could cope quite easily with whatever life had to throw at them. Individuals have to do something to justify a Happy New Year - even if it only means taking care of their loved ones and not thinking solely of themselves. While this message is very reminiscent of A Christmas Carol; in MacFarlane's production it was communicated direct to listeners by Dickens himself. If everyone followed Trottie's example, then perhaps the world might be free of injustice and self-interest.