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Dickens Abridged

Malvern Theatres

****

DICKENS abridged, compacted, diced, decimated and served up as fast food for the 21st Century – Adam Long’s swift-moving light entertainment both celebrates and teases Dickens and his admirers with another show in the tradition of the Reduced Shakespeare mould.

The show takes on the form of tracing Dickens’ life - a kind of biographical outline of his life and works. It opens with a brief and slightly political or philosophical question about why we see suffering, inequalities, cruelty and injustices in human society, an issue which clearly concerned Dickens. However such serious questions are quickly forgotten in the whirlwind of humour and banter.

The show dismisses some novels like Bleak House and The Old Curiosity Shop in the blink of a musical eye – a sixty second summary sung with the guitar. However it focuses much more fully on David Copperfield with its strong autobiographical elements, and on Christmas Carol with its huge popularity, and Oliver Twist is thrown into the mix as well.

We glimpse Dickens’ early experience of the blacking factor following the idickens posterncarceration of his father in the debtors’ prison; then his first and unhappy marriage to Katherine Hogarth results in a lifelong separation; this is followed by his love for Ellen Ternan and his commitment to the theatre at Drury Lane.

Eventually his illnesses, his mental confusion and a stroke lead to his death in 1870. Dickens was a somewhat flawed genius whose influence on the development of the novel in Britain was enormous.

Adam Long’s production uses song, especially with the support of the guitar, as a major feature. All four performers were both singers and guitarists, and the use of rhyming lyrics and music to lighten and lace the show with humour was brilliant and effective. A number of the harmonies were delightful.

The show also used projection to enliven the show: photographic images of London in the 19th Century, some dates to locate the story in history and words to add just another dimension to the humour.

The success of this show relies much on the versatility of the four performers. They sing, they dance, they swap roles in a second to become a Miss Havisham, an Agnes, an executioner or blacking factory manager! It is all done at breath-taking pace and with terrific energy and gusto to maintain excellent momentum.

Matt Bateman played the character of Dickens in general. Andrew Gallo. Matthew Hendrickson and Martin Sarreal completed the ensemble cast and they all performed with great dexterity the varied roles required of them. Their range of skills was terrific.

The players were helped with varied, enjoyable and humorous choreography by Sally Brooks and a good lighting plot by Matthew Newbury. The result is superficial but hilarious entertainment that appealed to an audience of all ages. Even the guillotine can be entertaining in this show!

Dickens Abridged was only at Malvern for a single night’s performance, but they return to Bromsgrove and Evesham in a couple of weeks or so.  The opportunity to catch another snapshot of one of Britain’s greatest literary talents is available to the citizens of Worcestershire shortly. 09-10-15

Tim Crow

Other Midland venues:

Royal Spa Centre & Town Hall Royal Leamington Spa, Wednesday 14th October, Box Office: 01926 334 418 Online: www.warwickdc.gov.uk

The Artrix Bromsgrove, Friday 23rd October. Box Office: 01527 577 330 www.artrix.co.uk

Arts Centre Evesham, Saturday 24th October Box Office: 01386 446 944 www.eveshamartscentre.co.uk

Buxton Opera House Buxton, Tuesday 10th November Box Office: 0845 127 2190 www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk

Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham, Tuesday 17th November Box Office: 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk

Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Sunday 22nd November Box Office: 01743 281 281 www.theatresevern.co.uk 

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