The Old Curiosity Shop review

The Old Curiosity Shop by Common Ground Theatre Company

The source novel for this production is an uneven, overly sentimental work that betrays its episodic origins. If you want to have a go at Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop is the stick to beat him with. So it’s a brave company that attempts an adaptation, especially one that proved to be so remarkably faithful, with the cast of five managing the bewildering roll call of characters with little more than a change of accent and hat.

Eloise Kay and Julian Harries did what they could with dreary Little Nell and her grandfather, but had much more fun with the roles of the Marchioness and obsequious Sampson Brass, while Tristan Teller and Joe Leat (scene stealing in drag) brought considerable comedic talent to the stage. Strongest of all, however, was the venal grotesque that Ivan Wilkinson presented in the shape of the odious Daniel Quilp.

The production would benefit from being tightened up – had director and author been two different people I wonder if some judicious editing might have come easier – but for the most part Pat Whymark directed an adaptation that was witty, engaging, and very entertaining.

By David Vass