I am a great admirer of cafe and fringe theatre. I have seen many a great piece of theatre start in such places: Godspell, The Rocky Horror Show, and more recently The 39 Steps. Its ticket pricing is fairer too. Sadly I could not praise Dickens Abridged which I saw yesterday at the Arts Theatre.
The work is the creation of Californian Adam Long and might be described as an alternative appreciation of Dickens in words and music. Long describes it “a mash up of California and Dickens.” And there lies its fatal flaw. Dickens was not a Californian – he was a Londoner, though born in Portsmouth. So when an American is singing about Charlie Dickens it’s as incongruous as Sir Marcus Twain being a Norfolk farmer. I became visibly irritated that Americans should invade our literary culture with their own interpretation.
Worse was the smart ass abridgement of his novels. We live in an age of texts and emails when everything must be shortened, but do we have to break the deliciously rambling Bleak House to 3 sentences? The whole point of the novel is the length of the trial of Jarndyce v Jarndyce.
Last year I saw Simon Callow deliver his one man show of Dickens. It was a brilliant interpretation of the man. I am afraid this added little to my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our foremost novelist.