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David Copperfield at Bolton Octagon

Published by: Caroline May on 27th Nov 2010 | View all blogs by Caroline May

Charles Dickens’ much-loved semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield has been magically transformed into a lively musical drama by the same talented writing partnership which was responsible for the Octagon’s fantastic Oliver Twist last year.

The first person narrative voice of the novel is so strong that playwright Deborah McAndrew has embraced it by letting the older David (Geoff Breton) tell his own story while watching and joining in with his younger self (played by one of the talented local youngsters specially recruited for the show). Geoff Breton takes on this huge role with boundless energy and enthusiasm, and remains charming and engaging throughout in spite of young David’s occasionally less than heroic behaviour.  The vast troop of iconic characters that people the work - among them Mr Micawber (Tobias Beer), Betsey Trotwood and Peggotty (Ruth Alexander Rubin), Ham and Mr Dick (Lloyd Gorman), and Uriah Heep and Steerforth (Jake Norton) - are shared between seven quick-changing adult actors who are also responsible for the live, practically non-stop musical accompaniment.

Deborah McAndrew and composer Conrad Nelson have outdone themselves with their inventive lyrics and music - folk dances, sea shanties, school songs, even a parody of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song all set the audience’s toes tapping.

Designer Lucy Sierra has come up with costumes which are luscious and evocative - her lively tableau of David’s Salem House schooldays reminded me of Thomas Webster's painting "The Boy with Many Friends" in Bury Art Gallery - and the War Horse-style puppets, including a memorable donkey, are charming.

Director Elizabeth Newman does not always get her cast to differentiate strongly between their multiple characters, but the pace is always energetic; and musical director (and actress) Barbara Hockaday draws excellent musical and instrumental performances from the entire ensemble.


David Copperfield is on at Bolton Octagon until Saturday 15 January 2011

Tickets: from £8.50-£18.50

Performances Mon-Sat (for dates see website)

Eves @ 7.15pm; Matinees @ 10.15am & 2.15pm

Box Office: 01204 520661



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