Want to see A Christmas Carol this winter? You could be in luck

Want to see A Christmas Carol this festive period? Well it looks like you could well be in luck…

The Bridge Theatre has a devised (by Nick Hytner), 3-person adaptation with Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo

The Dominion Theatre will host a production of Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent’s musical version with Brian Conley as Scrooge with a cast and orchestra of over 50

Gemma Bodinetz takes her bow as artistic director of the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres with Patrick Barlow’s small-cast iteration with Liverpool panto regular Adam Keast at the helm

And a brand new retelling of the classic family Christmas tale, will be coming to both cinemas and select theatres nationwide from November 20th, as Scrooge looks to help save Christmas. Simon Russell Beale, Martin Freeman, Carey Mulligan, Daniel Kaluuya and Andy Serkis lend their voices to the tale, whilst dance performances are led by former Royal Ballet soloist and BalletBoyz founder Michael Nunn as Scrooge, Jakub Franasowicz, Russell Maliphant, Karl Fagerlund Brekke, Mikey Boats, Grace Jabbari and Dana Fouras.

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too. Continue reading “Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)”

Review: Great Expectations, Yvonne Arnaud Guildford

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, Nichola McAuliffe, Theatre Touring UK

“A gentleman should never be discourteous”

At the heart of Tilted Wig’s new version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is the real box of delights that is James Turner’s set design. Endlessly practical (much needed for a touring show) and versatile in its use of space, I reckon it could either be marketed to IKEA for its storage solutions or to the London housing market as a bijou starter home!

Frivolity aside, it really does epitomise the playfulness of Sophie Boyce Couzens’ production which uses a cast of eight, plus a musician, to depict the coming-of-age of young Philip Pirrip with an elegant take on its theatrical invention. The focus is on storytelling – narrative interjections split between the company, the switch between the multiple characters they all play evoked with simple but effective change of an accent or hat or suchlike. Continue reading “Review: Great Expectations, Yvonne Arnaud Guildford”

Review: A Christmas Carol, Noël Coward Theatre

“Bah humbug”

Thing with resolutions is that it is terribly easy to break them. And having resolved to see no Christmas shows this year, Jim Broadbent only went and decided to do A Christmas Carol in the West End. Not having seen him on stage before, I decided to take the plunge just before heading back up north for the 25th and truth be told, I probably should have left it. 

This adaptation (for there are many around) is by Patrick Barlow, him of The 39 Steps, and has much of the same knockabout energy of that recently departed show. And in Tom Pye’s set of a miniature Victorian theatre in which the play is a play-within-a-play, puppets fly in and out and a genteel atmosphere of old-fashioned fun reigns, overseen by the indubitable twinkle in Broadbent’s eye.  Continue reading “Review: A Christmas Carol, Noël Coward Theatre”

Review: A Tale of Two Cities, Royal & Derngate

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy”

Although not intentionally, this year I’ve been racing through the list of theatres (and towns) I haven’t been to before and Northampton’s Royal & Derngate is the latest to be ticked off. This production of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities marks the beginning of James Dacre’s tenure as Artistic Director there and though I have no way to compare it with what usually takes place on stage here, it feels like a hugely ambitious piece of work and a definite statement of intent.

Most of this comes from the team he has gathered. Mike Poulton’s sleek adaptation of the novel surely confirms him as the country’s foremost translator from page to stage, Oscar winner Rachel Portman provides a hugely atmospheric score which swells to fill the auditorium, and the use of a community ensemble gives credibility to the world of the play, creating a most effective baying mob in Mike Britton’s beautiful set which effortlessly switches location as the story dictates. Continue reading “Review: A Tale of Two Cities, Royal & Derngate”

Review: Dickens Abridged, Arts Theatre

“Fistulas, fistulas, always the fistulas”

Previously seen in an earlier incarnation as Dickens Unplugged, Dickens Abridged is a shorter, sharper “high-speed comic sprint through Dickens’ greatest hits.” If the format seems a little familiar, then it should come as no surprise that writer and director Adam Long is one of the founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and it is the same frenetic energy and absurd humour that he brings to this 90 minute show which sweeps through the life and works of this literary genius.

The show works best when its 5-strong company are freewheeling merrily through its rapid-fire comedy. Purists may blanch but to hear the plots of Bleak House and The Old Curiosity Shop encapsulated in four-line ditties, likewise Little Dorrit in a musical limerick and Great Expectations covered in a quick-change routine is breathlessly hilarious. Long’s undoubted skill of creating a witty précis of even the most convoluted of plots is adroitly observed and with this talented cast of actor-musicians on fine form, it’s a winning combination. Continue reading “Review: Dickens Abridged, Arts Theatre”

Radio Review: Dickens in London

“It seems that I would be an uncommercial traveler”

The bi-centenary of Charles Dickens’ birth has been marked in several different ways across a variety of media and Dickens in London, this collection of five short radio plays by Michael Eaton was one which entertained me nicely. Adapted from some of Dickens’ journalistic essays, the plays deal with his changing impressions of London as he grew up, was stimulated by and then grew tired of the great city that inspired so much of his writing.

We start with A Not-Overly-Particularly-Taken-Care-Of Boy where the boy Charles gets lost on his very first visit with his uncle, then move to Boz, where a young man has secured himself employment as a Parliamentary Reporter for the Morning Chronicle but dreams of writing his own stories. Samuel Barnett is particularly good in these two first stories, his voice is particularly well suited to radio, so full of character and crackled emotion. Continue reading “Radio Review: Dickens in London”

DVD Review: Nicholas Nickleby

“You must bear up against sorrow my dear”

Douglas McGrath’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby manages the not-unimpressive feat of condensing Dickens’ weighty novel into a two hour film, and whilst much must have been jettisoned (I’ve never read the book so I couldn’t tell you what) it still hangs together as a cohesive story with much to recommend it. McGrath also directs and remains very much faithful to the spirit of Dickens with a straightforward aesthetic that takes a few artistic liberties but whose heart is very much in the right place.

After the death of Nickleby senior, Nickleby junior is thrust into the role of head of the family but with the dastardly deeds of their unscrupulous Uncle Ralph, Nicholas has to work extremely hard and keep his wits about him in order to protect his friends and family from the misfortune around them. Those misfortunes are many and varied but entertainingly portrayed here as there’s a good deal of humour and pathos mixed in with the grimness. Continue reading “DVD Review: Nicholas Nickleby”

TV Review: Great Expectations

“If you can’t beat a boy at Christmas when can you beat him?”

One of the centrepieces of the BBC’s festive television schedule was a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations by Sarah Phelps. Dickens could well loom large in the coming months as it is the 200th anniversary of his birth in February, but I’m not yet aware of a deluge of programming, whether on television or in the theatre, though I am reliably informed that there’s many radio serialisation on at the moment. As is often the case with new productions of classics, the key word is adaptation and though purists may baulk at some of the changes instituted by Phelps and director Brian Kirk, but that would be a shame as I found this to be a rather special piece of television, the BBC doing what it does best.

From the gorgeously, hauntingly atmospheric landscapes of the beginning – Magwitch rising from the mists of the wetlands was a perfect opening scene – the show looked a treat. The splendid isolation of the Gargerys’ house making for some beautiful shots (though it did pose the question of who exactly used that forge…) and the faded glamour of the dust-covered Satis House was excellently judged, the perfect receptacle for the casting choice that caused the most headlines prior to transmission: Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham. Continue reading “TV Review: Great Expectations”

Review: The Uncommercial Traveller, Punchdrunk and Arcola

“You will need a map, a sense of adventure and the most important ingredient, an incurable curiosity”

Though the big name Punchdrunk show at the moment is The Crash of the Elysium, thrilling children both young and old as part of the Manchester International Festival, there is another show which has snuck into London rather under the radar, The Uncommercial Traveller. A real community-based production, a collaboration between the Punchdrunk enrichment programme and the Arcola’s 50+ Theatre group, it was inspired by Dickens’ work of the same name, a collection of literary sketches and reminiscences of his night-time wanderings, delving into the hidden side of Victorian London.

At just £6 and a 30 minute running time, expectations had been accordingly adjusted, so it actually came of something of a pleasant surprise to find out there was more to the experience after the tickets had been booked. An atmospheric audio journey is provided for you, starting from Hackney Town Hall, which takes 50 minutes to wind through the history-filled streets of East London before ending up at a final location which sends you right into the heart of this Dickensian world where an individual adventure awaits. Continue reading “Review: The Uncommercial Traveller, Punchdrunk and Arcola”