‘Shakespeare was big, but Dickens was bigger’ were the words which summarised the opening song of this production, which encapsulated the four-person troupe’s adoration of Mr Charles Dickens. Entering the auditorium, a screen with a cartoon of the author’s face (complete with moving eyes) watched the audience. As the music transformed into ‘drum ‘n’ bass’ style, with the use of a stereo and a guitar accompaniment, the rest of the actors began to dance, and in true rock star style, ‘Charles Dickens’ threw the ghost sheet costume he’d been wearing as a disguise into the audience. Watch out, male strippers.
The Dickens troupe cleverly interwove stories of Dickens’ life, alongside representations of his stories, through an alternation of snippets of acting, extensive singing and mini, musical, fast summaries of his other works. The Country and Western dancing and singing culminated with Dickens yelling ‘yee-ha!’, as an entrance into the first, musical phase of his life.
“the show was a non-stop comedy phenomenon”
One minute, Dickens’ characters were singing at their creator, and questioning why he made their lives so miserable, and the next, the actors were mimicking the Blues Brothers in top hats – ensuring the show was a non-stop comedy phenomenon, and I had a smile on my face from start to finish.
The comedy performances were only improved by that fact that the musical elements of the play displayed actual musicianship from the actors. The performances on both acoustic and classical guitars, as well as ukuleles and many more, rendered the performance a musical as well as a comedy.
Catherine Hogarth, Dickens’ long-suffering wife, upon being ‘dumped’, broke the Victorian stereotype of a meek and mild woman with the phrase; ‘Charlie, I’m so sick of your shit’ – the American accent had never been so appropriate during the show! Perhaps she should have taken Nicholas Nickleby’s advice; ‘make the world a better place – punch a villain in the face’.
“Christmas 2015 had officially begun”
To conclude the show, the troupe performed a rendition of A Christmas Carol. The electric guitar was saved for Tiny Tim’s outcry of ‘God bless us, everyone’, initiating a Christmassy, Dickensian rave, which showed Nottingham that Christmas 2015 had officially begun!