Fans of Charles Dickens will love this charming one-man show performed by Ian Pearce, which he adapted from a short story.
An absorbing story, told elegantly and with aplomb.
Not having read the original text, I imagined a bleak story about a medicine man, but was happily wrong. The story has some darkness to it, certainly, but it is balanced by tenderness and just about the right amount of sentimentality. (It’s Dickens after all, so you have to recalibrate your expectations there slightly, but none of it’s on the nose).
The story concerns his ultimately unhappy marriage to a hot-tempered wife, and various tragedies in his family. Alone in his cart, he seeks to build a new life when he rescues a ragged and battered deaf-and-mute girl from another travelling man, certain he can offer her a better life.
Doctor (which, as it turns out, is the character’s first name) is a “cheap Jack”: a travelling salesman who hawks his wares from his cart. Pearce is dressed for the part and the character has an earthy charm, quickly drawing us in. He narrates his story with all the flourishes of Dickensian language and his dialogue as Doctor is full of spruiker phrases, always ready to throw another item in to make a sale. Doctor prides himself on his ability to win over his potential customers, and Pearce achieves the same with the audience in this full house performance.
It’s a fine adaptation, although there are some points where Dickens’ language is a bit too flowery for the stage, tripping us up momentarily, and there could be further opportunities to see moments enacted, rather than narrated. Nonetheless, it’s an absorbing story, told elegantly and with aplomb.