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February 27, 2015 / basabbott

Bleak House

Review

Bleak House

The Pantaloons

Diss Corn Hall

Pop-up text banners, the stage strewn with novel pages, actors in trainers – obviously a new slant on Dickens.

With a list of characters like the phone book, the five-strong cast played an average of six each.

Stephen Purcell’s adaptation kept closely to the novel by announcing which chapter they were on. Some, though, were polished off in moments.

Dickens is best in exposition and can get a bit turgid two-thirds of the way through. But the lively irreverence of the actors, using narration, song and mime, kept things going.

Edward Ferrow gave an arresting presence to Dickens himself, Tulkinghorn, Jarndyce and others. Kelly Griffiths had a tall grandeur as Lady Dedlock. Neil Jennings’ powers of mimicry created figures from Sir Leicester to the French maid.

Alex Rivers made an endearing Esther and Jo the sweeper. Just when things began to get a bit East Enders, Christopher Smart’s manic Smallweed restored the Dickens tone.

The cast tossing pages into the air to show the birds regaining their freedom was a memorable image.

Basil Abbott

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