Tinderbox - a new musical stagework

by sgdaltry in London, England, United Kingdom

Total raised £894

£14,000 target 60 days left
6% 8 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 20th July 2024 at 11:59pm

White Knight Pictures' goal is to finance the writing, composition, and staging of a platform performance of the musical stagework Tinderbox

by sgdaltry in London, England, United Kingdom

1715059669_slide6-1.jpgHelp Bring 'Tinderbox'  to Life

We're excited to introduce you to our new project: "Tinderbox," a new  musical stagework reimagining a unique and significant moment in literary and personal history - the meeting between popular 19th-century authors Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens, both of whose works continue to delight today.

Set in Dickens' home at Gadshill Place, Kent in the summer of 1857, 'Tinderbox' is an exploration of friendship, creativity, domestic tension and feeling, wrapped in the magic of storytelling and music.

The Story: 

Dickens was a larger-than-life character, like his own fictional creations - an amateur actor (who had once aspired to becoming professional) and keen mesmerist, as well as a playwright and novelist.  His wife, Catherine, a talented and passionate musician from a literary family, published - between giving birth to 10 children - dinner menus and recipes designed to feed from 6 to 18 guests, which she created to entertain her husband’s wide circle of literary friends. 

1715060022_dickens:andersen.jpgAndersen, whose mind had also been set on going on the stage from his early years, trained as a singer, dancer and performer in Copenhagen - though he never in fact became a professional actor.  He first earned a living adapting stories from a number of languages into libretti for various composers, before travelling widely and turning his full attention to writing. The “Tales of Wonder Told for Children”, on which his renown rests, became staple Christmas books as they appeared annually, volume by volume and were performed on the Copenhagen stage.  

Both authors created “stories which furnished reading for children and grown people” - as Andersen put it: “the children making themselves merry for the most part over … the characters, while older people, on the contrary, were interested in the deeper meaning”.

In Summer 1857, Dickens and Andersen were two of the most famous men in Europe. Both had begun with aspirations to act; both wrote with imaginary power that has given their work huge and lasting impact. Both much-travelled, they admired each other’s writing and shared literary tastes and political views. This significant moment, when they lived together in Dickens’ family home for a few weeks one hot  English summer, lends itself to rich dramatic and musical treatment, offering a new perspective on both public and private life.

Our Vision: 

We're passionate about bringing this magical moment to life on stage, but we can't do it alone. Your support will finance the writing, composition, and staging of a preliminary platform performance of 'Tinderbox' at the Camden People’s Theatre, Central London, in early 2025. With your help, we'll bring composer and librettist together with a talented team of performers to breathe life into a striking, multifaceted drama, offering a new perspective on a fascinating group of people.

Why Support Us

By supporting 'Tinderbox', you're not just funding a musical play—you're championing the arts, reanimating the imaginative legacy and charm of two literary icons and giving ear to the quiet voice of a woman, Catherine Dickens, hitherto swallowed up by her husband’s very public fame. Your contribution will enable us to honour the creative spirit of Andersen and Dickens by introducing this little-known, moving and illuminating episode to as wide an audience as possible.

How You Can Help: 

Join us on our creative journey by becoming a backer of 'Tinderbox'. Choose a reward tier that resonates with you and make a pledge today. Every contribution brings us closer to our goal and helps us share this unusual tale with the world.

Our Promise: 

We're committed to transparency and accountability throughout this project. As a backer, you'll receive regular updates on our progress, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and exclusive content. Your support means the world to us, and we'll work tirelessly to ensure 'Tinderbox' exceeds your expectations.

Spread the Word: 

Even if you're unable to contribute financially, you can still support 'Tinderbox' by spreading the word. Share our campaign with your friends, family, and social networks. Together, we can make "Tinderbox" a reality, celebrate the timeless legacy of Andersen and Dickens and add some new insights to the story.

Thank You

 Thank you for believing, like Dickens and Andersen, in the power of words, music and performance; and for supporting our vision. With your help, we'll create something truly magical with "Tinderbox." Let's embark on this journey together and create something unique and unforgettable.

Activity Plan

PHASE 1 - Months 1 – 6: Finalise libretto and music (Budget: £7,000)

PHASE 2 - Month 7: Cast and rehearse platform performance (Budget: £3,000)

PHASE 3 - Month 8: Perform 'Tinderbox' at the Camden People’s Theatre, London (January 2025).(Budget: £4,000). Invite appropriate impresarios and investors to finance revisions and a full performance at the Arcola Opera Festival London, July 2025.

Total needed: £14,000

About us.  

I am Steph1715060399_img_6942.jpgen Guy Daltry, composer, pianist and actor, and Founder Director, White Knight Pictures.  As well as for the theatre, I have composed extensively for film and television, such as BBC2's 'The Hunt' (Cultural Prix Italia Winner), the Sundance hit documentary 'The Moo Man' and 'The Lost World of Mr Hardy', of which director Ken Russell wrote in the Times (30/10/2009) :"a gorgeous musical score of violin and cello..breathtaking in its simplicity, beauty and effectiveness”.  

 My musical theatre includes 'Alice', adapted from Lewis Carroll's works, at the British Library and  New End Theatre Hampstead (Sunday Times critics and young people's choice - #2 London Christmas Show,); 'Seats in All Parts' (with co-writer/director Lesley Albiston) at the King's Head, Islington & Salisbury Arts Centre and 'Did You Dr Crippen?' with playwright Brian McAvera. 

1715060786_maureen_thomas_.jpg  Co-librettist and co-lyricist on 'Tinderbox' is dramatist, librettist and director Maureen Thomas (librettist, 'Lombroso'  in ‘About Face’ - composer Rachel Leach - commissioned Royal Opera House Covent Garden Blueprint Programme - Linbury Studio; librettist, ‘Zuppa Inglese’ commissioned Pimlico Opera - composer Daryl Runswick -  Oxford & Nottingham Playhouses; book and lyrics, ‘Bright Sparks’ - composer Daryl Runswick - commissioned Arts Council West, UK;  and co-writer/director with Stephen Guy Daltry on the musical 'Alice’ at the New End Theatre, Hampstead)

Where Can I Hear Some of the Music?

On 12th March 2024, we recorded, at the excellent Porcupine Studios in South East London, some demo material from 'Tinderbox', with mezzo soprano Margaret Cameron of the BBC Singers and baritone Oskar McCarthy. 

You can hear a few excerpts at this link:



In 2018, I (Stephen Guy Daltry) noticed a small article online about the writer Hans Andersen being invited to Charles Dickens' house in 1857 and outstaying his welcome.  I thought this meeting between two world-renowned writers who shared a number of attitudes and interests but who were separated by a language barrier, would make a wonderful subject for a chamber opera, weaving in fairy tale with the reality of Dickens' strained relationship with his wife at that time, his publication of 'Little Dorrit', the novel set in the London debtors' prison where his father was incarcerated when Dickens was 12 (obliging young Charles to leave school to work for the family); and Andersen's own quixotic hopes for the publication of a philosophical novel in English, that same year.  

Maureen was immediately attracted to the subject not only by a love of the works of these two great imaginers - particularly their creations for the stage - but also through her interest in Catherine Dickens, Charles's wife, between whom, after 22 years of marriage and 10 children, relations were no longer romantic; and his young actress protegee, Ellen Terney. 

Together, hope to create a memorable musical work for the stage, revealing a significant moment of change in the lives of all these music- and performance-loving characters.  We already have a strong scenario and outline draft libretto, using, as far as possible, the actual words of these prolific writers; a number of themes and melodies have been devised and some arias have been composed, three of which feature in the video on this page.

Using some recently-published and little-known material, we have researched the female characters, to show these women at a turning point in their lives as real people in their own right, rather than only as Dickens represented them when he was attempting to put away his no longer young and sparkling wife.

We intend to weave some of the wit and humour which have rendered the work of the two extraordinary 19th-century authors who inspire 'Tinderbox' loved through the years by so many, into the libretto and music; enhanced by their active fascination with performance and performing. 

WIth your help, 'Tinderbox' hopes to offer a fresh perspective, revealing unexpected insights into these complex creative beings so as to cast new light on their lives and work and its relevance for today's audiences.

Reward Tier One - donate £100

Enjoy a 2-course dinner  for two in your own home,  cooked by chef and presenter Arti Mirwani-Daltry, following a menu and recipes from Catherine Dickens' 1851 book, 'What Shall We Have for Dinner?', published under the pen-name, Lady Maria Clutterbuck, and Arti can also tell you more about Catherine Dickens the author.

Reward Tier Two - donate £150-£300

Composer Stephen Guy Daltry will visit your home or organisation and give a talk about Tinderbox, and the Dickens-Andersen relationship, and Stephen will play piano excerpts from the chamber opera. 

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