WHAT THE DICKENS?
by Abigail Anderson, Mark Conway, Neil Haigh, Emily Murphy.
Pegasus Theatre Magdalen Road OX4 1RE To 30 December 2012.
10am 12, 13 Dec
1pm 12, 13, 18-20, 24 Dec.
2.30pm 14, 15, 21-23, 27-30 Dec.
7pm 14, 15, 1823, 26-30 Dec.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 812150.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 December.
then Tour to 13 April 2013.
A huddled city, it’s life crowded with incidents.
Theatre company Gonzo Moose operate in that indeterminate area of performance termed ‘devised’. Aged 12, they belong to a theatre generation versed in things ‘visual’ and ‘physical’. Their Dickens show, from its title on, displays the symptoms of such an upbringing.
The performers’ self- and mutual critical skills are paramount. What results so often, and certainly at Pegasus this December, is a show of crafty, crafted moments, nifty interludes and sharp-etched caricatures, without much overall coherence or drive.
Still, as the other great staple of English writing might have put it, ‘Better an opportunistic wit than a witless opportunist’. The Mooses have to present their material themselves. And they have the advantage of Mandy Dike and Ben Rigby’s set, crowding a 3D London-scape on a stage of limited size, including anything old, curious or shoplike, alongside several other interiors and fogbound street-scenes.
All fits with snug conviction, backed by a huddle of narrow, winding streets amongst which the dome of St Paul’s tends to become more prominent, until it reaches the foreground in the final events.
It’s a breeding-ground for the fertility of mind in Mark Conway’s fresh-faced, eager but so far unsuccessful newspaper reporter Charles Dickens. As are the various characters benevolent, villainous or simply bursting with personality he meets.
Though the lyrical gifts that obstruct Conway’s Dickens’ factual reporting don’t seem markedly Dickensian, the sense of a life crowded by surroundings sparking the literary imagination is strong.
So are the best parts of the action, where the actor’s technique and personality fits the situation, as with Emily Murphy’s housekeeper, chatting inconsequentially on in a manner our author would certainly have picked-up, but which even he could hardly have made more comic than it is here. In other words, the performance is Dickens to the life.
Not all the humour achieves this but it’s intriguing to find the author a struggling journalist looked down upon by his editor and looking up to his paper’s ill-fated star reporter. And a pre-show tour of Pegasus spaces with the theatre’s youth company provides a suitably dark, yet garish vision of Victorian entertainment values.
Cast: Mark Conway, Neil Haigh, Emily Murphy.
Director: Abigail Anderson.
Designers: Mandy Dike, Ben Rigby.
Lighting: Tom Richmond.
Sound: Martin Stansbury.
Costume: Maija Nygren.
Fights: Seamus Allen.
22 Feb 7.30pm East Knoyle Village Hall 01747 830132.
23 Feb 8pm Compton Bassett Village Hall 01249 760273.
24 Feb 3pm Grittleton Village Hall 01249 782798.
26 Feb 7.30pm Queen’s Hall Hexham 91434 652477 www.queenshall.co.uk
27 Feb Artrix Bromsgrove 01527 577330 www.artrix.co.uk
28 Feb 7.45pm Corn Exchange Newbury 0845 521 8218 www.cornexchangenew.com
1 March 7.45pm The Neighbours Hall Great Milton 01844 279474 www.wegottickets.com/event/201737
2 March 7.45pm Loyd Lindsay Rooms Ardington email@example.com
5 March 7.30pm Llandrillo College Rhos-on-Sea 01248 351151 www.pontio.co.uk
8 March 7.30pm Bradon Forest Theatre 01793 773981 www.bradonforesttheatre.co.uk
14 March 7.30pm Arena Theatre Wolverhampton 01902 321321 www.wlv.ac.uk
15 March 7.30pm Middlesbrough Theatre 01642 815181 www.middlesbrough.gov.uk
16 March 7.30pm Harrogate Theatre 01423 502116 www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk
18-22 March 8.15pm Brewery Theatre Bristol 0117 902 0344 www.tobaccofactorytheatre.com*
23 March 7.30pm Hawthorne Theatre Welwyn Garden City 01707 357117 www.hawthornetheatre.co.uk
27-28 March 7.30pm Greenwich Theatre 020 8858 7755 www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk
5-6 April 8pm Rondo Theatre Bath 01225 463362 www,rondotheatre.co.uk
13 April Lenham Community Centre (Main Hall) 01622 853800/ 01622 858581
*with interval; runs 1hr 50min