Curiosity led me to a first time visit to the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, to see Common Ground Theatre Company’s The Old Curiosity Shop.
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, of which was serialised in 1840-41, this was a very popular novel in its time. I can’t say I was familiar with the story in the slightest prior to the show, but I can certainly see the appeal as it’s classic Dickens; and this is a well-executed adaption by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries. It feels true to its origins, but its been injected with a feature of original folk music to add extra wit and fun.
To those who aren’t aware, the story focuses around Little Nell Trent and her devoted grandfather, whom she is living with at his London curiosities shop, a magical place filled from wall-to-wall with dusty treasures. Only problem is, her granddad keeps his late-night gambling addiction a secret, and he soon becomes deeply in debt to the villainous loan shark Quilp. Once he gambles away what little money they have, The Old Curiosity Shop is seized by Quilp as payment and Nell and her grandfather are forced to flee London. While on the run, the pair meet a number of colourful characters; some friendly, some ominous. Will the pair ever find freedom?
With a cast of 5, they were each playing multiple characters – and brilliantly so I might add. Each character is either lovable or loathable in their own rights! The music is quirky and catchy, as performed by a talented troupe of actor-musicians; and the set and costumes are simplistic, but fitting and purpose-built for the piece.
Overall, I’m glad I dared to try something a little different. It’s tongue-in-cheek with great wit and humour, but at the same time it’s somewhat touching in imagining the harsh realities of life in the time it’s set. Ultimately, the show feels perfect for audiences in East Anglia, and if you can nab a ticket, definitely do so as the show makes a jolly good evening out. ★★★
♥ MOLLY THE BLOGGER ♥