Home / Drama / What the Dickens? The Misadventures of Charles Dickens – Harrogate Theatre

What the Dickens? The Misadventures of Charles Dickens – Harrogate Theatre

Director: Abigail Anderson

Writers: Abigail Anderson, Mark Conway, Neil Haigh and Emily Murphy

Set Designers: Mandy Dike and Ben Rigby

Reviewer: Rosie Revell

[Rating: 3.5]

what the dickensStaged to coincide with the bicentennial of novelist Charles Dickens’ birth, this madcap comedy features just three actors, playing over 20 rôles in 80 minutes of brilliant but bonkers fun. Having previously thrilled audiences with hit shows, Is That A Bolt In Your Neck?, Grimm And Grimmer, and I’m an Aristocrat, Get Me Out of Here; Gonzo Moose returned to Harrogate with their trademark slapstick, semi improvisational verbal wit, satire and some well- placed puppetry. While not as frenetic as earlier offerings there were some excellent moments that delighted the audience of all ages.

It’s 1834, young Charles Dickens is a rookie reporter for The Morning Chronicle having difficulty reporting just the facts in parliamentary reports. While investigating the foggy slums of Ye Olde London Towne Dickens accidentally stumbles on the story that could make his career. What follows is the adventure of a lifetime for Dickens involving organised crime, mistaken identities, grave robbing and pick pockets that help shapes him and his future literary career.

The cast, as always do an impressive job at breathing life into the 20 plus rôles. Some characters fall flat but some are gems such as Agatha (Emily Murphy) a good hearted chatterbox housekeeper and the competing undertakers (Mark Conway and Chris Porter) whose attempts to outdo each other with 2 for 1 offers, loyalty schemes and increasingly outlandish funerals.

The plot is a little uneven, taking a while to hit its stride. The second half is pacier and better constructed than the first. Some sketches do stand out, such as Pigeon Peg, which frames Dickens’ attempt to enter the lunatic asylum and the very funny puppet chase over the rooftops of London. The cast do an amazing job at keeping up with the numerous split second costumes changes and scenery movements. The set, designed by Mandy Dike and Mike Rigby is compact but amazing, a London rooftop scene that opens out to provide interiors, and then transforms to provide a thrilling and funny finale.

Gonzo Moose have created a lovely, funny, irreverent and very unique way to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth; unfortunately it is just lacking the sparkle that could have made it truly special.

Currently on a UK tour


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