Cirencester Rocks Review: David Copperfield at the Barn Theatre

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Cirencester Rocks Review: David Copperfield at the Barn Theatre

This adaptation of David Copperfield is a fantastic post-pandemic tonic and would serve as an excellent introduction to the theatre for children who haven’t been before.

The Cast of David Copperfield. Photo Credit: Eve Dunlop.

Sometimes hearing the name Dickens puts children in mind of gloomy, old-fashioned Victorian stories that have no relevance to them. Yet Dickens was a master storyteller and packed as many twists, turns and cliff-hangers into his tales as any digital content provider could dream of. He famously wrote in serial form and had to work to keep his audience coming back for more, honing his craft to keep readers invested in the characters and dying to know what happens next. Those talents make this show a great introduction to both Dickens and theatre for a younger audience.

David Copperfield - or to give it its original title, as this production does, ‘The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield The Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)’ - tells the story of the life of David through his own recollections. The novel itself is 600+ pages but here we have a whistle-stop, rollercoaster journey through the chapters of his life: there’s friendship, falling in love (a lot), being orphaned, shipwrecks, struggle, hardship and finding your place in the world.

Phillip Olagoke and Reuben Greeph. Photo Credit: Eve Dunlop.

There are just three actors: Philip Olagoke convincingly captures David Copperfield from young innocent to worldly gentleman. Reuben Greeph and Rosalind Ford play 16 and 18 characters respectively switching seamlessly between accents and gaits to conjure up quite distinct characters. All three are outstanding with Rosalind particularly mesmerising as she metamorphoses between beautiful young girl to old, mind-addled man and back again. Micawber, Peggoty, Uriah Heep: the names of many of the characters may be familiar even if you haven’t read the book.

Phillip Olagoke and Rosalind Ford. Photo Credit: Eve Dunlop.

The end of each chapter is marked with a click of David Copperfield’s fingers: the scene changes and we’re off again on the next instalment of his life. While the stage and costumes are sparse, this production creates a whole world from next to nothing and features original music, singing, film and physical theatre. The cast play piano, accordion, cello, violin, mouth organ and guitar. Echoes of music hall and vaudeville are definitely present and yet there’s also a rap thrown in too. All of which kept the school trip, in on the night we attended, rapt with attention.

At 2hrs 20 mins it is lengthy, and although the recommended age is 6 upwards, most children of that age might struggle to last that long. For older ones (from Y5 upwards) we’d highly recommend it.

We went along having not read David Copperfield and found it very easy to follow the story even with so many characters played by so few actors. All in all, this is a fun, uplifting, entertaining and impressive night out for all the family.

And that’s without even mentioning the joy of ice creams and sweets (and wine) at the interval!

Family Ticket

Barn Theatre offers a family ticket for 2 adults (full price) and up to 3 children under the age of 16 (half price). Ticket prices start from just £10.00.

Book your tickets here.