16 December 2015

A fantastic production of Nicholas Nickleby

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The Michaelmas term of 2015 ended with a superb production of Nicholas Nickleby Part 1 adapted from Charles Dickens novel of the same name, and was acted out by 41 students from the Lower Sixth and Year 10. The directors, Penny Hargreaves and Paul Harvey had the challenging task of condensing a complex and detailed novel into something more manageable and they did so with aplomb. The play is set during the 1830’s in Britain after Charles Dickens saw at first hand the extent of the impoverished conditions children in Yorkshire were living under.

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Nicholas is sent up to Yorkshire, to become the teaching assistant to the cruel Wackford Squeers by his cold-hearted uncle, Ralph Nickleby. Ilya Pecherskiy, as Squeers along with Tish Moon, his wife were able to juxtapose the sheer brutality when dealing with the children under their care with the gentle way in which they treated their own son, making compelling viewing for the audience. The treatment of one child, Smike is in particular very cruel and only helps emphasise the helpless situation orphans in Victorian England found themselves in.

Cameron McClellan physically captured the essence of his character and completely altered his movement and expression to suit Smike; his performance was one of the standouts in the show and it was refreshing to see someone who had not had a lead role in a previous Sevenoaks production to take centre stage in such dramatic fashion.

Daisy Hargreaves was able to provide comedic relief through her flamboyant and exceptional portrayal of Fanny Squeers, a girl who takes a liking to Nicholas and her attempts at seducing him fail with hilarious results. The second half sees Nicholas, along with Smike, escape to London and then to Portsmouth where he stumbles upon a theatre troupe led with confidence and flair by Rob Critchlow and Martha Whitefoord, who were able to capture the dramatic eccentricities of the couple with accomplishment.The following half focused on the troupe’s production of Romeo and Juliet leading to some well-acted and hilarious scenes.

Special commendation must go to Will Strutt for taking on the challenging role of Nicholas; he portrayed a very earnest character with sophistication and plausibility. In contrast, Brendan McGrath portrayal of Ralph Nickleby was full of convincing menace and typified the lack of empathy Dickens was keen to stress. In the tech box, Oliver Higham and Toby Fynn were magnificent technicians, who undertook their first lighting design with marked assuredness. Penny Hargreaves, along with Paul Harvey must also receive credit for assembling a talented cast of different year groups together and putting on a difficult play in a hectic term.

It goes without saying that the whole cast deserve to be recognised for their wonderful efforts in this production, and each and everyone of the 41 helped to bring Dickens much publicised novel to life.

Well done to all!

Gabriel Hargreaves




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