Preview: Dickens Unplugged, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
A prolific life story – with a little Twist
A founder member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Adam Long has squeezed Charles Dickens' life and works into a 93-minute show.
Long has been an expert at shortening material ever since 1981, when he first experimented with the form, condensing Romeo and Juliet into a 15-minute show at an outdoor event in San Francisco. He then added Hamlet to his repertoire – before attempting the complete works of William Shakespeare.
"As I'm Californian, I was raised on television. My attention span eroded over the years. If something is long and complicated, I try to reduce it," Long says. "The shows are always done in the style of the Marx Brothers and a Bugs Bunny cartoon," he adds.
Dickens Unplugged – directed and written by Long and designed by Lez Brotherston – is a musical comedy that explores Dickens' "bleak childhood, complicated marriage, numerous children, and final years".
The cast of five, from Santa Cruz in the US, who play a total of 104 characters and form the Charles Dickens tribute band, tell the writer's stories in sketches and music. "We are using American musical forms such as Broadway shows and even harmonies inspired by Crosby, Stills and Nash," says Long.
Many of Dickens' novels have been condensed by Long into this show, including Oliver Twist, Bleak House, Great Expectations, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield, The Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
"Condensing them has been a full-time job," says Long. "I started almost a year ago. It was not just condensing them, but also reading a lot of the novels for the first time. I've always considered myself more of a Mark Twain man. It was a gradual process of falling in love with Dickens' novels. Then you look at the entire novel and distil out the essence in iconic images and memorabilia scenes."
14 to 23 February (01483 440000)
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.