At this time of year, stage versions Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ are as hard to avoid as festive shoppers barging into you on the way to a deal.
Which makes it easier to forget the genius behind the story – something this show does its darndest to remind us of. Mr Charles Dickens and his many tales are the subject of this irreverent 90 minutes of sketch tomfoolery, written and directed by Adam Long, a founding member of the perennially popular Reduced Shakespeare Company.
‘Dickens Abridged’ doesn’t cover all of the Victorian master’s 61 works, but Long manages to squeeze in an impressive number. Five actors perform short versions of his classics, such as a 60 second song version of ‘Little Dorrit’, plus slightly longer sketches with songs covering the likes of ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’. All are interspersed with humourous biographical moments about Dickens’ fascinating life (did you know he worked at a boot blacking factory?).
Mark Bailey’s set holds some great surprises, not least when a massive copy of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ is transformed into a guillotine for ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.
There’s clearly a lot of love in the room for Dickens, but there’s a lot of fun-poking too: much is made of the writer’s apparent obsession with the bludgeoning scene in ‘Oliver Twist’, as is the fact that his first wife gave birth to a rather large number of children.
It all makes for a gently witty evening, though perhaps too affectionate to really offer a night of constant belly laughs.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell