Sat 19th October to Sat 26th October
One of Dickens's best-loved and most autobiographical stories, brilliantly and faithfully dramatised by Alastair Cording. All Dickens's marvellous creations are here: Mr Micawber, Uriah Heep, Mrs Peggotty, Murdstone, Steerforth and Betsey Trotwood. Weaving through the colourful maze of the storyline is David's hopeless infatuation with Emily – and eventual salvation in the arms of the long-suffering Agnes. Keith Railton will be directing this famous classic.
Review 2 - Barbara Goulden
Outstanding Dickens of a story
Rarely does amateur theatre reach these heights - and that's saying something for the invariably excellent Criterion.
Master craftsman Keith Railton marshalled a 23-strong cast - including many young newcomers - to stage this hugely ambitious production of Dickens' most autobiographical story, adapted for the stage by Alastair Cording.
David Copperfield in book form was first published in 1850, but before that had appeared, like most Dickens' tales, in weekly newspaper cliffhanger episodes.
There is so much to say that perhaps it would be best to start with the imaginative set designed by Bob Morley on which Craig Shelton has the time of his life as Mr Micawber, before launching his "frail canoe on the ocean of enterprise."
Not to forget lisping Mrs Micawber (Cathryn Bowler) who also doubles up as the fearsome Jane Murdstone, popping up in a bed - that will later become a prison door - in between her loathsome brother (Richard Copperwaite) and his new wife..
Youngsters Nicol Cortese and Pete Meredith share the role of young, and then older master Copperfield, whose transition in age is made on a "jetty," or catwalk, running out into the audience.
Nicol had a lovely singing voice and both put in fine performances and are ones to watch. As is David Butler, who has the gift of playing flesh-creeping Uriah Heep and rings ever ounce of hand-wringing unctuousness out of the part.
Then there's Jane Railton, who combined her wonderfully eccentric Betsey Trotwood with heading up the wardrobe team of Doreen Belton, Jean Firth, Liz Hodgkiss, Helen Elias and Nikki Muckle.
Not to forget the set-building team of Ben Woodward, Pete Bagley, Doug Griffiths, Karl Stafford, Terry Rahilly and Mike Tooley.
None of these backstage people normally rate a mention in reviews.
But as the cast were all so invariably brilliant they had to have taken some inspiration from all that effort going behind the scenes to help them shine.
At nearly three hours, including the interval, this is a long play. But thanks to the episodic nature of the story, my attention never wavered.
You'll be very, very lucky, if you can still get a ticket.
Review 1 - Chris Arnot
David Copperfield: 7.30 every evening until Saturday, apart from Sunday
The first chapter of David Copperfield is called 'I am Born'. By chapter 64 it finally dawns on our hero that the woman he always thought of as an adopted sister is really marriage material. Between these momentous events are some 920 closely typed pages. Compared to Dickens, contemporary winners of the Booker prize are positively concise.
Condensing a rambling tome, written for the serialisation market, into two and three-quarter hours of engaging theatre is no mean task. The adaptation by Alastair Cording provided the template used for the Criterion's production. To make it work on stage, however, requires considerable commitment from all concerned.
Under Keith Railton's slick and imaginative direction, the cast rises to the task with some gusto. The production rollocks along, managing to avoid wallowing too long in what a modern audience might regard as cloying sentimentality.
Dickens was writing for his market at the time. What survives for all time are his railings against the treatment of the poor (surprisingly relevant again in the second decade of the 21st century) and some stand-out characters that have become part of our national folklore.
Uriah Heep is one, and here David Butler brings to the role just the right amount of menace to underscore that 'very 'umble' unctuousness. No wonder Pete Meredith's admirable Copperfield wipes his palm on his trousers after shaking hands with him. The only surprise is that there's no stain on those snowy white strides.
Craig Shelton produces a vividly verbose and melodramatic Micawber while also managing to don a Norfolk accent and a change costume at regular intervals to appear as the worthy but increasingly desperate Ham.
He's not the only one to tackle more than one role. Cathryn Bowler makes a stunningly dramatic entrance as the psychopathic Murdstone's ghastly sister while also doubling as the devoted Mrs Micawber. Annie Gray is totally believable as Peggotty (even when she tells us that 'Yarmouth is the finest place in the whole universe') and as the vindictively snobbish Mrs Steerforth.
John Hathaway gives us a splendidly eccentric Mr Dick as well as an entertaining cameo as Creakle -what Micawber might call 'a pugnacious practiser of the pedagocic arts'. A cane-swishing headmaster, in other words.
There are other memorable performances, too numerous to mention. But we must find room for a word or two about Bob Morley's adaptable set. The wooden path down the central aisle serves at various times as a seaside jetty, a church nave, a rowing boat and more.
Dickens may have bequeathed us some 920 pages, but the Criterion has given us a rich evening of entertainment that, at times, elicited spontaneous applause. It ended with an audience in Britain's most inland city clapping along vigorously with a rousing sea shanty.
Another triumphant production is born.