Its cold and dark outside so draw your chair closer while two of Dickens' most iconic baddies unfurl their stories in a double bill at Trafalgar Studios 2.
In Miss Haversham's Expectations Linda Marlowe is Pip's tormentor, the woman jilted on her wedding day and forever frozen in time her only goal to seek revenge on men. Dickens' Great Expectations is seen through Miss Haversham's eyes mixing the novel's plot with her own narrative and some context about what was going on in Dickens' life at the time.
Dickens loved to perform and he loved younger women turning his back on his wife and the mother of his children to pursue affairs of the heart with women at the nubile end of the spectrum.
Marlowe's Haversham is at times wild and ranting and at others controlled and calculating. She performs magic tricks, a pass-time beloved of Dickens, and attempts to possess her adopted daughter Estella so she can feel young again.
She is a sorceress duping and manipulating, riddled with bitterness and jealousy and yet there is a wit and humourous side to her character that makes her strangely likeable and all the more tragic.
Di Sherlock's script, she also directs, brilliantly captures the language and tone of Dickens' novel with some modern prose mixed in although I'd have like a little more commitment to the latter throughout. Marlowe's performance is feisty and captivating drawing you in to Miss Haversham's world. It left me wanting to re-read Great Expectations.
The second piece, Sikes and Nancy, sees James Swanton re-enacting the events that lead up to and the eventual murder of Nancy from Dickens' Oliver Twist.
There is no modern reference here in the script which Swanton has based on writer's own performances and as such transports you straight back to Victorian England. Capturing the dark, macabre horror of Dickens novel he switches between characters with elastic ease creating a performance that reminded me of the original illustrations from the published work.
It is a bold and fearless performance unlike any I have ever seen before that grips throughout. It deserves extra merit as he didn't flinch once as two girls sat in the middle of the front row giggled, whispered and sniggered their way through the entire show*.
Dickens with a Difference runs as two separate pieces with ticket deals for seeing both. Each is an hour and there is a half an hour break in between. You can catch them until Jan 3 at the Trafalgar Studios 2.
* Swanton bravely used the curtain call to tick off the two girls by saying something along the lines: 'Thank you for all coming tonight, I've made two of you laugh at least but for everyone else I hope it didn't spoil your enjoyment."
It was admirably restrained response for what was deplorable behaviour, particularly as they were right in front of him, sometimes only two or three feet away from where he was performing. In fact I'm surprised they made it out of the theatre in one piece as the audience was in a murderous mood with several, myself included, telling them just what we thought of their behaviour as they left.