Newbury's loving the stage adaptation of BBC Charles Dickens mash-up
Watermill’s hilarious mash-up based on ‘the gloriously daft’ BBC Radio 4 series Bleak Expectations, at the Watermill, Bagnor, until July 2. Review by ROBIN STRAPP
Welcome to the world of Dickens, but not as you might know it, since Mark Evan’s witty, hilarious parody of such works as Great Expectations, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities is filled with so much fun and comic cleverness with tongue-in-cheek humour and many in-jokes.
Nicholas Murchie, as the older Sir Pip Bin, authoritatively narrates his family’s rags-to-riches story.
His younger self is played by Dom Hodson who gives a delightful performance as the innocent Pip who together with his two sisters go on a treacherous journey as they navigate their eventual fate.
Caitlin Scott, making her professional debut, is engaging as Poppy Bin as well as playing the whimsical Ripely Fecund. Rose Basista is her naive sister Pippa Bin, steadfastly carrying her anvil wherever she goes.
JJ Henry is splendid as the lonely schoolboy who befriends Pip at St Bastard’s School and switches with ease to Mr Parsimonious. Simon Kane plays Gently Benevolent who certainly isn’t benevolent.
Pip had a horrid time at school. Dan Tetsell is outstanding as his sadistic headmaster, who enjoys thrashing the boys. He also gives a stellar performance as a fearful governess, a truly depraved vicar and a corrupt judge. All a joy to watch, but also to dislike them.
As Pip’s mother, Alicia McKenzie brings a sense of frenzy to the role and by contrast plays the charming Flora Dies-Early.
Colm Gleeson multi-roles from Thomas Bin to Bakewell Havertwitch and Broadley Feccund.
Katie Lias’ impressive set has a tower of books that dominates stage right and is precariously used as a climbing frame to reach the upper levels. There are cameo pictures that come to life and a magical changing of locations.
Andrew Exeter’s lighting design even had flickering light in the auditorium evoking gaslight and Tom Piggott-Smith’s emotive soundtrack adds to the mood with sound designed by Andrew Exeter.
Slickly directed by Caroline Lesley, this is a wonderful ensemble production that sparkles with inventiveness and is performed by a richly talented cast, who were enjoying it as much as the audience.
Don’t miss it!