Tuesday 16 December 2014


Theatre review: Sikes & Nancy (Dickens With a Difference #2)

After the mediocre experience of Miss Havisham's Expectations (the first in the double bill of Dickens plays I saw back-to-back at the Trafalgar Studios last week) my own expectations had been considerably lowered, so I was pleasantly surprised when James Swanton took the stage and with an expressive performance transformed the evening into something truly memorable.

Rather than focusing on the boy who asked for some more gruel, Swanton's one-man play explored the sinister side of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist as he in quick succession took on a slew of famous faces from the classic tale; from the play's titular leads to the villainous Fagin and several smaller roles, each playing a pivotal part in the abusive relationship between prostitute Nancy and the murderous Sikes - and its explosive ending.

The quick succession between Swanton's remarkable transformation from one character to the other was incredible to watch and hugely captivating. And with his energetic portrayal, Swanton barely seemed to take a breather for the entirety of his one-act play, I at times forgot that I was watching just one man on that stage, and not a much larger cast.

The lighting design by Matt Leventhall was highly effective as well, as he shrouded the most ominous parts of the play in near darkness, playing to the suggestive nature of Swanton's performance. Combined with the simple staging and lack of props, it ensured that the audience's attention was focused solely on Swanton's extraordinarily captivating presence on stage.

Dickens' sinister story of Sikes and Nancy is perhaps not the most obvious choice for a festive outing, but Swanton's mesmerising performance makes for an incredible theatrical experience, one which you can not to miss this December. 

Sikes & Nancy is playing at the Trafalgar Studios in London until 3 January 2015. Buy tickets here.

Also running at the same theatre as part of double bill Dickens With a Difference is Miss Havisham's Expectations. Read my 2-star review here.

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