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Watermill Senior Youth Theatre - David Copperfield

27th to 30th March 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Rolling cast of Copperfields

Five youth theatre actors share the role of the ageing narrator

Watermill Senior Youth Theatre: David Copperfield, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, March 27 to Saturday, March 30

Dickens' semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield is skilfully and sympathetically adapted and deftly directed by Beth Flintoff for the Watermill Senior Youth Theatre. This large cast of 29 youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, embraced the epic tale with relish and enthusiasm, and it was a splendid production.

Five actors shared the part of David Copperfleld, a very clever and effective theatrical device, which worked exceedingly well. They all wore similar costumes, with green waistcoats that were removed as they handed over the storyline, as David aged.

Tom Fisher was an impressive Old David, who had the exacting task of narrating the story, which he did with aplomb.

Rory Robertson-Shaw was the charming, confident and mischievous young David and Lee Slater the middle David, with the part of the teenage David shared between Sean Dunnett and Ben Stillman.

Dickens' story traces his life from childhood to maturity Living in the idyllic topsy-turvey world of their house in Great Yarmouth with their homely housekeeper Peggotty (Emilie Butter) and the rustic seafarer Mr Peggotty (Samuel Steele-Childe), both had convincing Norfolk accents.

There was a nice cameo performance by Ben Stillman as Mr Barkis, complete with false beard, "who is willing."

When his widowed mother, sensitively played by Jade Wallin, marries the sadistic Edward Murdstone (Mark Vaughan) he viciously beats David, much to the delight of his sister Miss Murdstone (Emily Woods).

In retaliation, David bites his hand and ends up being sent to boarding school, where he meets James Steerforth (strongly played by Albie Embleton) who is to become a long-term friend, but in later life seduces and abandons David's childhood sweetheart Little Em'ly (Elizabeth Miller).

Murdstone sends David to London at the tender age of 10, to work in a candle factory, where he boards with the debt-ridden Mr Micawber (William Seath) and his emotional wife (Emma Evans). This domestic bliss is somewhat thrown into disarray when Mr Micawber is sent to a debtors' prison.

David decides to run away and walks all the way to Dover to stay with his eccentric Aunt Betsey, a delightful performance by Catriona Suttie, where he also meets the kindly Mr Dick (Sam Harris).

In later life David becomes an articled clerk and meets the devious and fraudulent clerk Uriah Heap - a sinister Steffan Padel - who has desires on the winsome Agnes (Rebecca Chadder).

David marries the pretty but naive Dora (Olivia Snell) and the wedding celebrations bring an unusual modern twist that was 'Top of the World', and brought much laughter from the audience. Nicholas Harris doubled up as Mr Wickfield and Mr Spenlow.

However, love does triumph and in the end David finds happiness with his true love, Agnes. There was excellent support from an enthusiastic ensemble as a variety of street urchins.

David Harris had designed an imposing set and, together with Nick Flintoff's inspired lighting and Neil Starke's emotive score, perfectly captured the mood of the piece.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment, from a highly-talented young cast, perhaps not one for Dickensian purists, but very well done indeed.