Having only a sketchy idea of the plot of Nicholas Nickleby, I consulted Wikipedia – and found that the novel runs to
700 pages, with a vast array of characters and episodes which left me boggling! So the first congratulations of this review must go
to Nick Warburton, who managed to condense this rambling epic into a tight, fast moving script, with a well delineated cast of main
characters, supplemented by several narrators who kept the story moving along. As the scene moved from London to Yorkshire, we saw
various misfortunes befalling Nicholas, his widowed mother and his sister Kate, orchestrated by his amoral uncle, Ralph, and Nicholas’s
heroic attempts to stand out against his uncle’s schemes.
The set was presented on an open stage to the audience as they entered, and
this gave us plenty of time to admire the impressive graphic art, depicting on one side of a central arch an urban setting and on
the other a rural one. A block of steps leading to a raised platform centre stage was inventively used for schoolroom and street scenes,
with downstage being used for scenes in the Nicklebys’ cottage, with basic pieces of furniture, props and sound and lighting effects
indicating the change of location.
My main impression of this show was of a colourful, ever-changing scene, full of movement, with
the episode rapidly following episode to keep the momentum of the story. Great entertainment, although it did result in the loss of
the odd line as actors, keen not to let the pace drop, occasionally talked across one another or just slightly fluffed their words.
Some of the lines spoken from the back of the stage were, just occasionally, difficult to hear as well. However, there were some excellent
opportunities for characterisation which was seized upon by this talented cast, notably the Yorkshire Squeers family, the odious Sir
Mulberry Hawk and his cronies, and the rollicking Crummles theatre company. This was the ultimate ensemble performance and the many
cast members combined (no pun intended!) to form a whole that was definitely more than the sum of its parts.
to all concerned with this production, but especially to director Colin Lawrence for orchestrating so many fine elements to produce
a show that was well up there with the best of these Christmas offerings from BAWDS and Combined.
A BAWDS and Combined Actors of Cambridge production of
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
by Charles Dickens
A new adaptation
by Nick Warburton
ADC Theatre, Cambridge
Production dates: 6 - 10 Dec 2011
Reviewed by Chris Avery