Pros: James Swanton’s performance is as brilliant as it is scary, as he contorts his entire being into some of literature’s most horrific characters.
Cons: This is not a performance for the faint-of-heart. Come prepared for an hour of serious gore and harrowing scenes.
This is a performance that will leave you quivering and quaking in your seat. James Swanton’s one-man show, a grotesque and terrifying tour-de-force, explores one of literature’s most horrific murders. It pushes the boundaries of physicality as Swanton contorts his face and entire body into characters of boundless evil and menace. Swanton is a remarkable performer and whether you enjoy Gothic melodramatic stories of prostitutes, murders and spies or not, Swanton’s energy and skill are truly impressive.
Switching smoothly between the wretched and whimpering Nancy, the sly and wicked Fagin and the evil, brutish and harrowing figure of Sikes, Swanton creeps around the dark stage with no props except his flowing black coat and a couple of mismatched chairs. Dickens lovers will know the story: Nancy, in an attempt to save Oliver Twist, meets with a gentleman and a lady under a bridge, and is overheard by the spy Fagin, who relates the clandestine meeting to the jealous and paranoid Sikes. Sikes proceeds to murder Nancy in her own bed, before meeting his own sticky end dangling from a noose.
Clever use of (sparing) light and sound, such as water quietly dropping from the roof of the bridge, its echoes resounding, enhanced Swanton’s nightmarish storytelling. But while I loved his performance, I would have liked a couple of humorous moments to lighten the mood. One story of horror which had my stomach clenched followed another and by the end I was thoroughly exhausted. That said, I readily admit that I am not one for horror-stories, so if you like your Gothic gore, go see this show, although you have been warned.
Writer: Charles Dickens, adapted by James Swanton
Producer: Jimmy Jewell Ltd
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/sikes-and-nancy/trafalgar-studios/
Running Until: 3 January 2015