Review | David Copperfield at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea: "A fast-paced but engaging production"

The cast of David Copperfield aboard the Isle of Wight ferryThe cast of David Copperfield aboard the Isle of Wight ferry
The cast of David Copperfield aboard the Isle of Wight ferry
To be tasked with the responsibility of performing one of Charles Dickens’ favourite novels in the town of his birthplace is certainly a challenge, but the cast at The Groundlings Theatre has succeeded.

Directed by Dan Dawes, a former student at The Groundlings Theatre, this stage adaptation of David Copperfield is based on the 1850 novel which follows the play’s namesake as he grows up. Surrounded by people of both good and bad nature, David experiences a number of hardships that shape his life.

For a novel of 768 pages, a grand job has been done at fitting the story into the length of a stage play, particularly in such an intimate venue, which, on this opening night, is packed out.

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In the theatre, a thrust staging configuration has been used, which brings the characters physically close to the audience at suitable moments. It is a wonderful choice for scenes of direct address particularly in Pegotty (Sandra Valence) and David’s (Charlie Wingrove) monologues.

Charlie brings David to the stage as a character full of determination, strength, and innocence, striking the audience with his loud vocals in moments of frustration and exclamation, and a heartfelt emotion during his character's lows.

In the first half, we see David sobbing at the coffin of his mother’s funeral, a sudden and heart wrenching combination of the sound of his cries and the darkness of the room, the minimal lighting lending itself very cleverly to the scene.

In contrast are the scenes involving John Mclaverty and Christine Allison, who played Mr and Mrs Micawber. Their relationship onstage was part of some of the comic relief in the show, filled with optimism, care and humour, bringing laughs and smiles aplenty from the audience.

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It is undeniably a fast-paced show, but the play has a sensible balance of comedy and tragedy – in keeping with the original novel’s story. The actors’ enthusiasm and dedication to their roles were certainly what made this play so engaging that even without knowledge of the story beforehand, you would manage to follow the story enjoyably.

The play continues tonight and Saturday, October 21. For tickets go to