...The most striking feature of the building’s exterior is a big clock on which the numbers run counterclockwise. (I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to signify some kind of mystical journey back in time or was just an installation error.) As I approached, the clock started to chime the hour, which triggered a little show: its face opened to reveal Charles Dickens sitting in a wooden rowboat along with two kids and a dog. (I have no idea.)
...The gift shop was called — in blatant disregard of both Victorian spelling and the title of Dickens’s novel — the Olde Curiosity Shoppe.*
...The result was sad and funny, in a way that Dickens would have loved. He was obsessed with grand plans that ended in failure, with the comic tragedy of provincial ambition. In this way, Dickens World was a perfect tribute to Charles Dickens.
...when the performers lip-synched their way through a dramatization of “Oliver Twist” in the courtyard, it ended as the novel ends: with Bill Sikes murdering Nancy by beating her head in with a club, then being chased by a mob until he accidentally hangs himself.
Then he talks about the Great Expectations boat ride, in which the absurdity and horror finally overwhelmed him and he broke into manic laughter.
...At some point the boat swiveled and shot backward down a ramp, splashing us and soaking our winter coats, and an automated camera took our picture.
The author provides a link to a separate article showing the photo:
my friend Asad and me just after we plunged backward down a ramp and were hit by a giant splash. I’m the one who looks like he’s having a psychotic break.
...Asad has a slight smile, but it should not be mistaken for a smile of joy — it’s a smile of sadness, confusion, defeat, resignation. He was extremely upset about getting his coat wet in January, in England, and I think he was also a little put off by my manic screeching
...Asad was on fire, interpretively, for the entire trip. Only Dickens World, it turned out, could make his critical motor grind to a halt. As soon as we entered the park, it was like he’d been shot by an arrow.
Reading this, I had a psychotic break of my own. I laughed so hard, I looked like I was sobbing.
The rest of the main article describes their walk through the local spots where Dickens lived and rambled, and the more authentic/moving experience that provided.
I had a similar experience when I visited London and made a little Christmas Carol excursion into the City. I'll share that with you another day.