As the lights go down Katy Owen and James Peake burst into the theatre, raucous late-comers, with suitcases in hand, loud and full of energy. They join the audience, grabbing a seat in the front row to watch the show before they impatiently jump onstage, joining the live pianist and performing the show themselves.

Credit: Christian Davies

This cleverly adapted and lively new production of Charles Dickens’s famous David Copperfield is filled with laughs, madness, and exuberance with a sea-side pantomime-like style. It’s filled with everything from trombone playing, to acrobatics, kite flying, and dancing – so expect the unexpected! 

The story follows David Copperfield‘s extraordinary life and the outlandish characters he encounters. We see the development from boy to man – his experience through friendships, romance, education, work, and self-discovery.

Peake’s, flamboyant, larger-than-life, comic characters, were most definitely a standout tour de force, keeping the energy high. His complex characters tumble onto the stage, chasing the action, proving a laugh a minute!

Peake and Owen play 30 different characters between them, completely committed, playing numerous roles within a scene, changing by the millisecond – ‘Audience -Keep up!. The gender-bending Peake’s ‘Peggotty’ and ‘Aunt Betsy’ are full of feminine charm and tenderness, whilst Owen’s starlike ‘Steerforth’ and the wheezing grotesque ‘Uriah Heap’ really keep the audience engaged.

From the second Christopher Buckley emerges unexpectedly from his cramped suitcase he connected to the audience with his skilful storytelling and his warm persona taking us on a wild, chaotic journey through his turbulent life, full of the most extraordinary characters. He performs with a child-like innocence, from the moment he was born (playing the baby himself!) to a happily married man.

Credit: Christian Davies

Beth Colley’s sets were made up of a magician-like toy-box design surrounded by red velvet curtains which highlights the playful nature of the production like a Punch and Judy show. Painted fish and kites add to the fantasy, and suitcases are scattered over the stage, creating a voyage-like style.

This is hugely challenging story to construct as it’s extremely convoluted (in typical Dickensian style), due to being written in episodes for serialisation, it is expertly directed by Emily Raymond. The agonising start to David’s life with the death of his mother, working in factories, gruelling boarding school days and then left in poverty was effectively transformed into light entertainment.

The scenes and character changes are seamless but the fast pace sometimes makes it haphazard, and often challenges the audience to keep up as they were lost in the chaos. Parts of this production are genuinely hilarious however some are rather repetitive.

This production is perfect for anyone who enjoys slapstick, music hall, ballad-like comedy and wit, with out-of-this-world characters.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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