New Era - Nicholas Nickelby
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New Era - Nicholas Nickelby

10th to 19th September 2009.

Here is the NWN review.

A new take on Dickens turns drama into a riot

Will New Era's success with Nicholas Nickelby Part One lead on to a sequel?

New Era Players: Nicholas Nickelby (Part One), at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, September 10 to Saturday, Septemeber l2 and Tuesday, September 15 to Saturday, September 19

Last week, the New Era players began their 42nd year with "a cast of thousands" (well, 37) piled on the tiny stage of their own Wash Common theatre. Nicholas Nickleby didn't sound too inviting: Dickens, poverty, misery...

Upon arrival, theatre club members, once seated on the art deco seats, were ushered in by members of the cast, in costume.

The set was dark-grey brick; forbidding. The 10 poor boys of Dotheboys Hall were suitably dressed in rags. The speech, much of it narration, sounded Dickensian, the plot sordid.

In contrast, the costumes of the wealthy were colourful and lavish. They were amusing, often silly. All this, in a very long first half, with floggings and a fight.

However, after the buck's fizz in the break, the mood changed for the better.

Nicholas joined a theatre company and his world brightened up. We watched a strange pastiche of Romeo and Juliet - not for the serious Shakespearian - cleverly interwoven with the 'real life' drama of the Dickens story, in this version by David Edgar.

At some point the whole thing got out of hand and turned into a riotous time, enjoyed by all. There was something for every type of actor; tragedy and comedy in generous measure.

Outstanding characters were Squeers, Mr Mantalini and the Head Milliner. Nicholas and Smike were excellent.

The children were great, and top marks to Janet Bennett for the amazing costumes - a visual feast in the bizarre finale, greeted by riotous applause.

Well done director Lisa Harrington. Will Nicholas Nickleby Part Two follow soon?

Meanwhile, look out for the December production: The Farndale Avenue Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery (!)

EILEEN CASTER