Candide: The Optimist

This is a one man production of Voltaire’s Candide, a satire about a young man who believes firmly that this is the “best of all possible worlds”, despite the increasingly horrific events unfolding in his life. Dave Nelder plays an incongruously Scottish Voltaire, who narrates the tale, as well as the various characters in Voltaire’s story.

I start to wonder whether I have in fact missed the point, whether the entire production is actually an ironic postmodern take on the state of modern amateur dramatics.

Changes in character are indicated by the donning of small props such as glasses – which are occasionally forgotten – and the putting on of a variety of different voices and accents, the quality of which would embarrass even a father reading a bedtime story.

Nelder’s production at times verges on the absurd. When he produces a handkerchief that is allegedly blood-stained, but has clearly been poorly coloured in with red felt tip pen, I start to wonder whether I have in fact missed the point, whether the entire production is actually an ironic postmodern take on the state of modern amateur dramatics.

It becomes increasingly hard to escape this suspicion. Possibly when Nelder laughs at his own jokes, apologises for fluffed lines and accurately acknowledges the poverty of his ability with accents, he is breaking down the fourth wall and giving an audience an insight into the frailty of theatre as a medium. Possibly. Or possibly this production is just really bad.

This is the type of show that you could see transcending its own awfulness and becoming a cult classic, favoured ironically by young hipsters, were it not for the fact that after about twenty minutes it begins to drag appallingly.

The one advantage of this was that by the time it was over, I was so glad to emerge into the real world that I wasn’t nearly as upset as I should have been about having devoted more than an hour of my adult life to watching a man in period dress make substandard jokes about UKIP in between bouts of sword fighting with himself. I suppose the ever optimistic Candide is right: there is a positive side to every story.

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The Blurb

It is 255 years since Voltaire published his scathing satire on Liebnitzian optimism, yet it remains as fresh as it was in 1759. We may no longer be as ready to believe that 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds', yet politicians still try to tell us so. Adapted and performed by Dave Nelder, this one man play highlights Candide remains relevant to today’s issues; from bankers, corruption, austerity and inequality, to wars and religion. Even the Scottish independence debate gets a look in. 'We must cultivate our garden'.

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