Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Nigel Nevison brings his Brighton Fringe hit to the Edinburgh Fringe. "Everyone knows what Mr Pickwick looks like, but how many people have read the book or know anything about Mr Pickwick’s adventures? See the eccentric characters that Mr Pickwick encounters on his journeys. Laugh at Mr Pickwick getting into farcical muddles which lead him to be tried for breach of promise of marriage. Also hear Mr Pickwick recount some of the horrors of Victorian England which lead him to change his philosophy on life. This play will please Dickens aficionados and people who come to discover one of his most famous novels."
A man who is no stranger to playing Mr Pickwick, Nigel Nevinson has reimagined Mr Pickwick and puts him on trial before our eyes!
So this is what we have; A hat stand and a trunk, the sound of hoof beats, we are transported back in Dickensian London and we enter the no longer comfortable life of Samuel Pickwick.
Nevinson knows his Dickens and knows how to step fully into the skin of one of his legendary characters. Since we saw this piece at the Brighton Fringe he’s tightened up the transitions between each "episode" (many are little stories in themselves) that makes up this solo piece of theatre. The whole production feels more precise and it was fairly polished even in May.
The comedy here is light but has texture and that’s the skill of Nevinson’s writing and portrayal. The trial is an opportunity for humour in both Pickwick’s worried reactions to his circumstances and the many characters he plays. From Fleet Debtors’ Prison poor Pickwick addresses us…a story unfolds, told with different embedded tales and characters.
The writing is intelligent drinking deeply from the well of Dickens’s own words. The style is theatrical storytelling and that all proceeds at a fair pace. Nevinson is at home in his character and his concentration never flags. The play is really in two parts – the "crime" and the trial. This gives a pleasing symmetry to the work.
This is an enjoyable hour at Hill Street for lovers of Dickens and also anyone else who wants a light-hearted experience of a very accessible character from classic fiction. It’s fun to watch Nevinson switch between Pickwick and a range of different men and women with simple but effective use of props and costume, many of which add to the sure flight of the story and the comedy. A few hesitations aside, this is well honed and realised character drama. Lean forward, watch, listen and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in Pickwick’s world.
The piece really comes to life during the court scene where Nevinson truly excels as an actor. His prosecuting barrister is a very fine monologue in its own right. The story builds and the ending satsfies, Pickwick ends with a flourish and a bow. The audience readily and heartily responds.
Nigel Nevinson lays a worthy claim to the character of Mr Pickwick. Shows like this often come to the Fringe and struggle to get on the audience radar. That’s a pity because this is a quintessentially very fine Fringe show.
And I learned a new word – Chummaged. Don’t google it. Go see this show and find our for real. A warmly recommended hour atHill Street.