When I consider Charles Dickens, a man whose life was seemingly a stumble from one tragedy to the next, I tend not to think ‘comedy stage show material’. But I don’t think I’ll be able to resist from now on, having seen the sublimely hilarious Dickens Abridged. This is more than just a simple lampooning: it’s a lovingly crafted tribute to one of Britain’s most legendary writers. And luckily, it’s bloody hilarious.
Bateman and co have created their own cohesive, mad little world within the bounds of the Pleasance stage, and it’s utterly compelling.
Comedically, there isn’t a flat bulb in the box. Every single pun, one-liner and visual gag is delivered with nearly surgical precision and timing - and for a show packed with as many jokes as this one, that’s one hell of an achievement. What’s more, the show includes scenes which are genuinely touching. The sensitivity and thought with which the cast approach Dickens’ life is both surprising and impressive. And no less can be said of the cast themselves. Every single one of them is on the ball from the first minute, and move between the various sketches and intensely quick costume changes so well that it seems utterly relaxed and effortless. Bateman and co have created their own cohesive, mad little world within the bounds of the Pleasance stage, and it’s utterly compelling.
This is all helped immensely by their considerable musical talent. Matt Bateman’s almost intimidatingly powerful voice lends brilliantly to his portrayal of Dickens (especially during some gut-punching harmonies with Matthew Hendrickson) combined with the instrumental talents of Gallo and Sarreal for a slew of songs with more than a little American Blues-y spice. Every new verse is fresh, dynamic and clever - and it never feels shoehorned in. This is a triumph of literary comedy. Even people who aren’t familiar with Dickens’ work will find ample laughs in this engrossing tour of his legacy, and at the very least find themselves leaving with more than one melody stuck in their head. This was nothing short of a spectacle, and I’d very happily pay full price to see it again. I cannot recommend this show enough.