A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
adapted by Ruth Ford
Directed by Roger GimblettIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Act One opens with Banker Mr Jarvis Lorry travelling to Paris to assume responsibility for his old client Dr Manette, recently released from 18 years imprisonment in the Bastille. He takes with him Lucie, Manette's daughter, who has never known her father. In Paris Dr Manette is being cared for by his old servant, wine-shop owner Ernest Defarge and his wife, Therese. The action then shifts to the Old Bailey, London, where 5 years later Charles Darnay is on trial as a suspected spy. Lorry, Dr Manette and Lucie are called as witnesses as they meet Darnay on the boat returning from France. Darnay is saved by his strange likeness to a lawyer called Sydney Carton, who works for Defence Counsel Mr Stryver. Soon Darnay, Stryver and Carton are all rivals for the affection of Lucie Manette. However she falls in love with, and marries, Darnaym although Carton, a dissolute cynic, has sworn his love and loyalty to her. Meanwhile the situation in France deteriorates, the peasants storm the Bastille, and overthrow the government. Darnay (who is actually the nephew and heir of a recently assasinated French aristocrat, the Marquis St. Evermonde) is summoned to Paris to save an old servant, Gabelle, who has been arrested by the new revolutionary government. Reluctantly and not fully realizing the danger, he sets out for France.
Act Two begins with Lucie and Dr Manette arriving in Paris and seeking out Mr Lorry who is working for the bank there. They have heard that Darnay has been arrested as an 'Emigre Aristocrat'. The next day, in the Revolutionary Tribunal, Dr Manette's status as a heroic Bastille prisoner saves his son-in-law from the guillotine. All seems well, until Darnay is almost immediately rearrested having been denounced with new information from an unknown source. Meanwhile Sydney Carton has arrived in Paris to do what he can to help Lucie and Darnay. He makes his own plans as Darnay appears again in the Revolutionary Tribunal where an ancient story is revealed which condemns Darnay to death. All seems lost.....but is it?