Despite the fact that many of Charles Dickens' novels were serialised, his writing and narratives flow beautifully. Unfortunately, Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation of David Copperfield does not piece together as successfully, the many different artistic ideas preventing the performance from working as a whole.
The story, set in Victorian England, is told in first person, with the protagonist telling of his life, his loves, his losses and the many influential people he has met on his way.
McAndrew does a praiseworthy job in making her text accessible to children, reducing a 737 page novel into an 84 page script. Furthermore, the creative team’s choice to bring in music and movement as an aid to narrative is a perfect way of maintaining a younger audience’s attention.
However, the focus on making the production family friendly is often taken too far, with the presumption that children need silliness to be entertained. Bright blue bubble machines, for example, do not match the authenticity of the set and costumes, and although instruments bring colour to the piece throughout songs, when they are used to orchestrate mood, sombre moments often become laughable.
The energy of the cast alone is more than enough to sustain focus. Geoffrey Breton as David Copperfield narrates the story with enthusiasm, whilst Ruth Alexander Rubin and Tobias Beer (As Mr and Mrs Micawber) provide many comic moments with their melodramatic characterisations.
Indisputably, the performance is fun, and seems to do well in capturing the imagination of the children in the audience. However, as an adaptation of a classic that Dickens labelled his ‘favourite child’, it needs to ultimately be dealt with more tender loving care.