REVIEW: ‘David Copperfield’, at Oldham Coliseum, to February 23rd

CORDING’S adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” makes an enjoyable drama from the long, complex novel, which covers the tale of a boy travelling through many ups and downs towards manhood and eventual happines.
David Copperfield, at Oldham ColiseumDavid Copperfield, at Oldham Coliseum
David Copperfield, at Oldham Coliseum

A cast of eight accomplished actors bring it all to life. Jack Wilkinson is equally good as Davey, the confused boy, and David, the man who has to learn some hard lessons from his experiences. Keiran Buckeridge plays his childhood friend, Steerforth, who later betrays his trust by seducing young Emily (Jo Mousely) and also gives a memorable performance as Uriah Heap, the “villain” in the older David’s life.

Joanna Higson plays Davey’s naïve mother and Agnes, his wise confidante. Isabel Ford plays Peggotty, his childhood support as well as Mrs Steerforth and Mrs Micawber, two very different but equally deluded women. Helen Kay is forthright as Betsey Trotwood and loathsome as Jane Murdstone.

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Tim Treslove is equally loathsome as Murdstone, but moves us with his portrayal of Emily’s despairing uncle Daniel Peggotty and gives a wonderfully exuberant Micawber, and Robin Simpson is adept as Creakle the horrid schoolmaster, Dick, Betsey’s “challenged” but ultimately astute friend, and the loyal, loving Ham Peggotty.

As always the actors rely on clever design and direction. Alison Heffernan’s design focuses on the concept of a journey both literal and metaphorical. Copperfield’s life is centred on a carrier’s cart, which brings in trunks and suitcases that are moved around unobtrusively by the actors to represent different scenes (Uriah Heap’s appearance and disappearance are amazing!).

Credit must also go to Sound Designer Lorna Munden. I loved the splash of stones in the sea in the childhood scenes, the ticking of the clock and many other subtle sounds, which helped to create the atmosphere.

To director Kevin Shaw I give my thanks. I must confess that I am not a fervent Dickens fan (despite my degree in English and my years of teaching!) I find his characters a bit two-dimensional. However, this production made me see some of the relationships in a more interesting light, particularly the parental ones, the cruel Murdstones, the weak Mrs Copperfield, the obsessed Mrs Steerforth, the loving, forgiving Daniel and those who act as “parental mentors”, Peggotty and Betsey. A good evening’s entertainment!

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