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New Era - The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: Part Two

15th to 17th and 20th to 24th September 2011.

Here is the NWN review.

Audacious director behind exceptional ensemble

New Era Players: Nicholas Nickleby part two, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 24

New Era Players performed part one of Nicholas Nickleby in 2009, with Lisa Harrington directing, and she directs this ambitious production of part two with an assured and audacious hand. You don't have to have seen part one to follow the sequel since the large versatile ensemble cast perform a rapid resume of the plot so far.

Nicholas, resiliently played by Chris Billingham and his sister Kate, the delightful Vikki Goldsmith, are living in London under the watchful eye of their scheming unscrupulous uncle, Ralph, a strong performance by Mark Carveth.

Kate is invited to a dinner that Ralph is hosting but discovers that she is the only woman present and she becomes the focus of unwanted attention by Lord Verisopht (Jack Hepplewhite) and the disreputable peer Sir Mulberry Hawk (Stephen Bennett, who was also first-rate as Noggs). Hawk's amorous attentions cause much consternation and a promise from Kate not to tell her mother (Dawn Sellick) otherwise she will be left penniless.

Nicholas agrees to leave London to travel to Portsmouth with the emaciated Smike, sensitively played by Sam Prentice, who he rescued from Dotheboys Hall to enlist as sailors. They meet the theatrical manager Mr Crummies (Richard Colley) and his formidable wife (Karen Ashby) and so their acting career begins.

But all is not well in London and Kate has lost her job as a milliner and now works as a companion to the irascible Mrs Witterley, beautifully realised by Pam Hillier Brooke, and her scatty over-attentive husband (Neil Taylor) who also played a fine Ned Cheeryble.

Nicholas is introduced to the philanthropic Cheeryble family, who employ him on a generous salary and provide him with a small house. Peter Hendrickx was splendid as the brother Charles Cheeryble.

The horrendous headmaster Squeers, a sterling performance from Nigel Winter who also doubled up as Pluck and obviously relished his part as Gride, was simply superb. He visits London and kidnaps Smike. James Winter is excellent as the upstanding Pyke.

Luckily James Browdie, powerfully played by Paul German, is honeymooning in London and rescues Smike, whose health is rapidly deteriorating and finally dies in the arms of Nicholas.

Dickens' ending brings true justice, repentance, retribution, lovers marrying and the destruction of Dotheboys Hall.

There was first-rate support from an exceptional ensemble (too many to mention) in this beautifully costumed and fluid production.