Amy Bird, Andy Marchant, Carl Fletcher, Frances Bushe, Jimi O’Dell, Julia Collier, Kathy Petrakis and Mary Groom
Directed by Andy Marchant, Jacqui Adams and Kim Morrison
Pros: Enthusiastic performances. Some individual pieces were well written and original.
Cons: Way too long. Uneven writing and performances and no strong, connecting through line.
Our Verdict: Some of the individual pieces are worth seeing. However, these are poorly served by being amalgamated into an overly long whole.
What the Dickens! The Modern Plays was written in parts by eight writers, and this is the production’s fatal flaw. The show – which is running in rep with What the Dickens! The Victorian Plays – is a jigsaw puzzle with individually interesting and beautiful pieces that do not fit together comfortably. The entire show revolves around the starting story of a young woman being told ghost stories by a spooky voice on the phone; a tenuous way to hold together all the other stories which varied greatly in tone and theme.
Some individual pieces did manage to stand out. Of particular interest were The Mother’s Eyes and The Lawyer and the Ghost which showcased intelligent and unpretentious writing. And The Portrait and The Shade, though at times pretentious in its style, had an interesting and engaging storyline. The show did have the merit of great variety in its selection of shorts, but this was also its failing as it was nigh impossible to find cohesion between them. This was not aided by the presence of multiple directors. Though, based on the performances in each piece, Jacqui Adams clearly demonstrated directorial vision and, as a result, tended to get stronger performances from her actors.
The performances were enthusiastic but uneven, the key problem being a lack of drive through the pieces. However, Carys Brehme managed to be effortlessly engaging throughout. Mark Ewins showed versatility in the roles he played, understated but a strong supporting figure throughout the pieces, and Peter Cabrera’s upper-class portrayals were engaging if somewhat one dimensional.
The show was, on the whole, too long to sustain audience interest but there were individual pieces and performances that managed to stand out and capture the audience’s interest. If you are particularly fond of ghost stories, its worth seeing.
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What The Dickens! The Modern Plays runs at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 9th November 2013.