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What The Dickens? (Drum Plymouth)

Please Sir can I have some more/

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Kicking off the festive season is Pegasus presents Gonzo Moose in the madcap What The Dickens? – a frantic ‘comedy thriller' set in the foggy backstreets, lofty rooftops and sinister backwaters of Victorian London. Abigail Anderson (who also directs), performer Mark Dawson, Neil Haigh and Emily Murphy's romp tells of ‘inimmmmitable' rookie politics reporter Charles Dickens who is thrown into a sinister slapstick plot of duplicity, thuggery, theft and I'm-going-to-rule-the–world villainy.

With in-jokes and sly references to Dickens' characters and novels, just three performers frenetically populate the stage with a gallery of veritable rogues, pickpockets and lord, busty barmaid and sour guardians, paunchy editor and one-armed grave robber, and so many more. This is spoofery at its pacy, witty best.

Chris Porter includes a superb super-sleuth journo and filthy body snatcher, class act benefactor and rent-a-thug among his playlist while Mark Dawson is mostly an erstwhile Dickens but manages a few cameos en route.

Of particular ridiculousness was their portrayal of rival funeral directors wooing the recently bereaved with outrageous one-upmanship of BOGOF offers and reward points. Delicious.

Mistress of timing, Alys Torrance (Coronation Street) is a rubber-faced delight with lovelorn, breathless Agatha, thieving orphan and grieving widow of particular delight among her myriad parts.

Mandy Dike and Ben Rigby's set is a revelation: a backdrop of the London skyline and two mobile pieces, full of flaps, ladders and secret doors, which revolve to become – well everything: bars and backroom, garret and office, asylum and wharf, St Paul's dome and funeral parlour just to name a few.

With lighting designed by Tom Richmond adding atmosphere and dark corners in which to skulk, dig up bodies, throw about rats and attempt murder and mayhem, What The Dickens? is a clever idiotic caper and downright good fun.

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