Broadway Baby

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After reading the story I thought to myself, why isn’t this as famous as A Christmas Carol or The Signaman? What a cracking tale. I wanted to tell people this story right away.

Broadway Baby talks to Ian Pearce, the man behind this retelling of Dickens' little-known Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions.

Tell us about your show

This is a one-man show that tells the extraordinary story of Doctor Marigold who is a Victorian street hawker who sells goods from the footboard of a cart. This is an adaptation of a lesser know short story by Charles Dickens. Dickens wrote it for himself to perform in public. Marigold isn’t in fact a doctor but his first name is Doctor, named so in gratitude of the doctor who delivered him at birth and waived the fee. Doctor Marigold demonstrates his selling skills and goes on to explain how his daughter died in his arms whilst making a sales pitch. He later adopts a poor deaf mute who he teaches to read and write. The tale is funny, touching and totally engaging. As Marigold I wear a costume which features the all important waistcoat (you’ll find out) and other than a chair and a few basic props that’s about it. This is an intimate show that worked really well last year.

Why did you decide to take your show to Space UK this year?

Theatre 3 at Surgeons Hall proved to be the perfect venue for Doctor Marigold. There is a real buzz around the place. Artists and audience mingle and chat so it’s easy to exchange ideas and experiences. There is also a sense of a support network at Space as staff and fellow performers encourage each other. The fringe can be a brutal place for anyone and at Space UK you feel part of a team.

I loved meeting and greeting audiences from all over the world at the box office and inviting them into my little space simply to tell them a story.

What makes your show unique amongst the thousands of others at the festival?

What makes this show special is the voice of the character of Marigold. Dickens writes with such vitality and his characters are a gift to actors. This story which is heartbreaking, heartwarming, sentimental, melodramatic and eventually life affirming is delivered in the language of the salesman – sales patter even.

Anyone who sees the show loves Marigold the man. There is a sense that life feels good after being in Theatre 3 for 55 minutes. I gave a money back guarantee to some audiences last year if they told me they didn’t feel better having seen the show. The warm feeling for the show was unanimous and I had fantastic audience reviews. That’s fairly unique perhaps?

How did you create your show?

After reading the story I thought to myself, why isn’t this as famous as A Christmas Carol or The Signaman? What a cracking tale. I wanted to tell people this story right away. To begin with I simply told the story in an improvised manner to friends. Then came the task of editing the story so that it could fit into a show time slot. The task that followed was just solid hard work – I had to learn the piece verbatim. I wanted Dickens’s entire story, all of his words because they are brilliant.

After about three months I had committed about 30 sides of A4 dense script to memory. I assembled a costume and worked with director Martin Harvey formerly of the Northcott Theatre Exeter to help me present the work. Together with Tim Knight from Adaptable Theatre who had been performing extracts from A Pickwick Papers we toured the South West in a show called Double Dickens.

Making my Fringe debut last year I edited the show to fit into a 55 minute slot. On the Double Dickens tour we include chairs, giant books and a trunk to dress the stage. I pared it down to the bare essentials – a chair and an old coat. This solo show is simpler, leaner and more economic. Nothing is lost but the feeling is more intense.

What’s the main thing you want to get out of the festival this year?

I want more people to share this experience. Last year I was thrilled that audiences came. A twelve year old boy said to his father that of the ten shows he had seen, mine was is favourite ! I was so pleased that people of different ages and backgrounds enjoyed Doctor Marigold. It seems strange to want to promote Dickens – who doesn’t know who he is? But this is what it’s about for me. I simply want to tell this story again to more people from around the world. I can remember saying to people on the Royal Mile, ’if you don’t get the chance to see it then please read the story... you’ll love it’. Even better come to Theatre 3 venue 53.

Can you tell us a bit about your company’s background?

You can’t make a theatre company work in Devon without sponsorship or arts funding I was constantly told. Well I thought I’d give it a go. I formed a company on a shoe-string budget called Tooth and Claw. I wrote a wild comedy about middle-aged football mad husbands called Playing Away. Roz (Brian’s daughter) Blessed played a door mat wife and the show was directed by Barry Castagnola who is now an established writer comedian. The Royal Court liked it a lot but stopped short of putting it on. Not a bad start though!

I then wrote an adaptation of Jerome K Jerome’s classic Three Men in a Boat. By then I’d re-named the company Adaptable. Three Men in a Boat was, I’m proud to say, a success. We played to enthusiastic audiences throughout the south of England and eventually performed in the small theatre that Jerome had built for himself at his home in Oxfordshire. That was a thrill. Adaptable doesn’t make money but happily it doesn’t lose money (apart from the Edinburgh fringe!) We are a self funding organization that still survives on a shoe-string. 

Production Company: Adaptable Theatre

Venue: Surgeons Hall Venue 53

Dates: August 7-22

Times: 19.05 - 19.55


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