Review: Denys Edwards Players stage David Copperfield at Sheffield Crucible Studio

Sue McCormick (Betsey Trotwood) and Jan Ibberson (Peggoty) in David Copperfield
Sue McCormick (Betsey Trotwood) and Jan Ibberson (Peggoty) in David Copperfield

Celebrated author Charles Dickens is reputed to have modelled his favourite novel David Copperfield on real chapters in his life.

He must have met some diverse and outrageous people to have created the motley crew of characters who flow in and out of the tale,

Fictitious they may be, but the strengths and weaknesses they have are utterly believable and identifiable in people from all walks of life.

Characterisation is key to putting across the story on stage and presents an amateur company with a big challenge, not least in filling the 30-plus roles which span the generations.

Denys Edwards Players rise to that challenge in an engaging production at Sheffield’s Crucible Studio this week which has been adapted for the stage by Ian Mullins.

Thomas Ferris gives a heart-warming portrayal of the young David at the mercy of a cruel stepdad who packs him off to boarding school and who seeks comfort from his nurse when his mum dies.

Jack Hallam, from Killamarsh, copes well with a marathon amount of lines in his role as the older David who is tamed by a good education and becomes a paragon of good manners.

Jan Ibberson plays David’s nurse Clara Peggotty with the warmth and compassion of a substitute mum and Jack Massey embodies those same qualities in his role as Clara’s good-natured brother Daniel.

A lovely performance from Sue McCormick sees the battleaxe great-aunt Betsey Trotwood have her hard heart softened by young David Copperfield.

Michael Bullock is outstanding in the role of Wilkins Micawber, his performance as blinding as his colourful outfit. He also gets the best lines, many of which demonstrate what an accomplished wordsmith Dickens was.

James Plura is cast as the swindling scoundrel Uriah Heep and a great job he makes of it as he creeps around the stage like a hunchback rubbing his hands in humble fashion.

The two love interests in David Copperfield’s life are played by Juliet Ibberson in the role of child-wife Dora and Chrissy Almond as the more mature, accommodating Agnes.

Strobe lighting and the sound of a violent storm at sea conjure up a shipwreck, effectively portrayed by five men carrying a sheet attached to a pole, and the theatre is plunged into darkness to allow the casualties to make their exits without being seen.

Crashing waves, squawking seagulls, braying donkeys and horses hooves fire the imagination every bit as much as the characterisations in this entertaining play.

David Copperfield is produced and directed by Alan Mitchell and can be seen at the Crucible until Saturday, August 15, at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm.