‘brilliantly bonkers’ london tonight, itv
DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11 June 2008 – DICKENS UNPLUGGED, GREAT EXPECTATIONS ARE FULFILLED, by Charles Spencer
DAILY MAIL & DAILY EXPRESS pasted below
THE OFFICIAL LONDON THEATRE GUIDE, 10 JUNE, 2008
VARIETY (U.S.A.), 11 JUNE, 2008
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (U.S.A), 12 JUNE 2008
DAILY MAIL, Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Patrick Marmion, first night review
DICKENS UNPLUGGED, Comedy Theatre, London
HAVING boiled down Shakespeare, Wagner, and the history of America in the previous two decades, you might reasonably have expected Adam Long to be scraping the barrel with his comedy of reduction.
But no. Despite running nine straight years in the West End with the spoof of Complete Works of Shakespeare alone, Long is back with a new all-American crew that’s fresher and funnier than ever.
This time he’s putting the Cowboy ‘yee ha’ into Charles Dickens and throwing in a bit of Bill and Ted’s ‘wo dude’ too as they turn the Victorian novelist’s life and work into a Californian hoedown.
As far as the old boy’s life goes, it’s an affectionate but not entirely flattering spoof. Having ploughed through many of the novels and several biographies, writer and director Adam Long has got Dickens down to gloriously irreverent detail – ‘fistulas, fistulas, always the fistulas!’ despairs his caustic second wife in the manner of a Jewish mother.
Before that the prolific author is amusingly sent up by Gabriel Vick as an affable but pompous windbag given to whining about his ‘anxieties and sorrows’.
This being Dickens though the characters are even larger than his busy life and it’s with them that the company of iconoclastic yanks have a comic feeding frenzy – whether it be Fagin from Oliver Twist (‘a good hearted Jew with a thing for little boys’) or Nicholas Nickleby (‘don’t mess with him Mister he’s protective of his sister’).
But the pick of them is everybody’s favourite, Ebeneezer Scrooge, acted by Long as a bad tempered Manhattanite in the manner of Alan Alda with a sore head.
All this is interspersed with songs giving one-minute precis of sundry plots on an old curiosity shop of a set. Here the gloriously absurd mismatch between Victorian London and country and western folk music played on bass, banjos, and harmonica generates plenty of thigh-slappin’ comedy.
It all moves too thick and fast and it’s impossible to apportion individual credit, but wisely they save the best till last. And this is a show which gets funnier as it goes along, climaxing in a gospel song ‘Lay Down Charles Dickens’.
Silly? You bet your ass – which is why it’s worth the entrance fee for a Tiny Tim electric guitar solo alone.
DAILY EXPRESS, Tuesday June 10 2008
CHARLES Dickens is one of our sacred literary figures and sits securely alongside Shakespeare in the iconic line up…But what would he have made of a one hour, 45 minutes (including interval) comic musical that chopped up much of his works into bite-sized chunks? This is Dickens on speed with some of his major novels roared out in frantic time.
Such is Dickens Unplugged – although some might regard this effort as Dickens Unhinged.
For instance, Bleak House rattles by in around 10 seconds, David Copperfield is only a little longer and there is a racing version of A Tale of Two Cities, complete with bloodstained guillotine and severed heads.
Adam Long, who performs in this zany show, is also its writer and director – he was one of the founders of The Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Dickens Unplugged is highly original, fast-moving and witty.
The music, played mostly on stage by the actors, ranges from Joan Baez-style folk to a wicked parody of Lionel Bart’s saccarine musical, Oliver!
There are peeks into Charles Dicken’s life: His obsession with Oliver Twist, and how he enjoyed giving live performances of the scene in which Bill Sikes bludgeons tart-with-a-heart Nancy to death, is given a satirical treatment.
And there is a very funny moment when the author, very sick in his bed, has hallucinations of Sikes, plus his dog (on wheels, no less) and Nancy. All very bizarre…