★★★ | Dickens With a Difference, Trafalgar Studios, London

What can be more festive than Charles Dickens with his depiction of Victorian London in ‘A Christmas Carol”? Trafalgar Studios has chosen to present a spectacle of an all together different and darker aspect to Dickens’ work over this year’s Christmas period.

Miss Havisham’s Expectations
★★★
If you’ve not heard of the iconic Miss Havisham then it’s about time you treated yourself to this embittered, grief-stricken woman. Sitting in her rotting wedding dress amongst the remnants of the wedding breakfast that never was, in a dilapidated mansion overrun with mice? Training up a child to wreak havoc on men? That’s my kind of reaction to a messy break-up. Being jilted at the altar and conned out of money is bound to turn a girl’s head a little. ‘Miss Havisham’s Expectations’ adds a new dimension to the story we’re told in ‘Great Expectations’. Finally, in Di Sherlock’s play, she gets to tell her side of the story. Self-aware, funny, sweary and in the full knowledge that she is a fictional character; this Miss Havisham dances, practices conjuring tricks and speaks her mind very clearly. Her views on Dickens’ treatment of women are particularly illuminating.

Critically acclaimed actress Linda Marlowe (currently Sylvie Carter in EastEnders) gives a superb performance. The sets are adequate; the wedding dress was maybe a little too modern and the play does have the odd moment but on the whole, this monologue packs a punch and is worth a look.

Sikes and Nancy
★★★
Dickens wowed Victorian audiences with his dramatic readings of his work. Here, James Swanton, takes on the scene from ‘Oliver Twist’ where Nancy is murdered by Bill Sikes. This is high melodrama, bought to life by one man with only a few chairs as props and a clever lighting set to accentuate his storytelling.

Swanton takes on numerous characters through shifts in voice and facial expressions and takes us through the build-up and aftermath of the crime on what is a thrilling ride. It’s a show that’s received much acclaim and even Dickens aficionado Simon Callow classed it as remarkable.

A word of caution: There’s a lot of facial contortion, character voices and melodrama. I enjoyed it but my companion was left cold by the show.
Miss Havisham’s Expectations
Tuesday 9th December 2014 – Saturday 3rd January 2015

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Watch the trailer and buy tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/miss-havishams-expectations/trafalgar-studios/

Sikes & Nancy
Performance Dates Tuesday 9th December 2014 – Saturday 3rd January 2015

Read more here: http://www.jamesswanton.com/sikes–nancy.html

Buy tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/sikes-and-nancy/trafalgar-studios/