Sunday, 18 November 2012

Review: 'A Taste of Dickens' at the Black Box

Review: A Taste of Dickens
An Evening of Readings
devised, written and directed by Michael Nunn
Performed by Lancaster Theatre Productions

At The Black Box Studio Theatre, University of Cumbria
Bowerham Road, Lancaster
Wednesday 14 November 2012 at 7.30p
Pay What You Can Night
Reviewed by Léonie and David Sugarman

Although no more than coffee and biscuits actually passed our lips, we enjoyed a feast last Wednesday at the repeat performance by Lancaster Theatre Productions of A Taste of Dickens.  Performers ranging from young students to seasoned actors and academics indulged the audience with a hamper of rehearsed readings (along with a little evocative acting) harvested from Dickens’ ruminations on food and drink.

Michael Nunn did an outstanding job of assembling an entertaining variety of readings drawn from Dickens’ journalism, letters, short stories and novels.

Most will have known Oliver Twist’s plaintive, “Please, I want some more”, although hearing it in the context of Dickens’ writing delivers a punch absent from its utterance as part of a glossy musical.  Other items were less familiar.  Dickens’ fleeting visits to Lancaster were nicely conjured in Lancaster Food.  The extraordinarily prescient Temperate Temperance, an article only recently attributed to Dickens, attacked the middle classes for patronising the "working man".  Emergency Refreshments was a movingly understated account of a train crash from which Dickens escaped, but in which ten people died and forty-nine were injured.

The setting of the University of Cumbria’s Black Box Theatre provided a suitably blank canvas on which the audience could project the images conjured up by Dickens’ words, although we were sad to miss out on the Victorian Buffet – with recipes taken from Mrs Catherine Dickens’ cook book – that was served in the interval of the earlier performance in September at Lancaster’s Grand Theatre.

The cast was good, David Findlay and Stephen Longstaffe especially so.  This home-made, local contribution to the Bicentenary of Dickens birth merits inclusion in a literary equivalent of the Good Food Guide.

Copyright © Léonie and David Sugarman
17 November 2012

Dr Léonie Sugarman is Emeritus Reader in Applied Psychology at the University of Cumbria
Professor David Sugarman is Professor of Law at the University of Lancaster

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