This weekend Henry Sandercock, Website Sports Editor, swapped his BUCs fixtures for a good old theatre fix, as he went to see The Pantaloons’ rendition of Bleak House at the Gulbenkian.

If you were to say to someone that you’re going to see a theatre show which condenses a thousand page novel into just two hours, they will probably stare at you in wild disbelief. Yet that is just what The Pantaloons set out to do with their latest production, a whistle-stop rendition of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, Bleak House. However, they don’t just do it, they do it well.

Bleak House is one of Dickens’ densest narratives, with dozens of characters and a multitude of sub-plots bubbling under its covers. Although their simplification of the plot misses out most of the satirical and emotional depth of the original, The Pantaloons manage to breathe a new, more 21st century style of life into it, which opens it up to all age-groups. Whilst, in the novel, a lot of the intended themes such as: poverty, injustice and corruption are lost upon the modern reader, this production keeps away from them and instead focuses on the plot itself, which makes light of Victorian melodrama and finds the kind of irony that Dickens’ loved.

With a cast of just five, The Pantaloons managed to play the vast majority of the characters and negotiate the most salient points of the plot with great dexterity (and a great deal of sweat). With their costumes and props splayed all over the stage, they switched from comic to emotionally deep characters right in front of the audience’s eyes. Sometimes they would still be in the process of changing between guises as they ran on as a character, but this merely added to the comical effect of the performance.

As the shredded copies of Bleak House, which were scattered around the stage, showed there was very little in the way of a script. The improvisation, on the whole, was very good and brought a great many laughs. In particular, one of the actor’s portrayals of Madame Hortense, Lady Dedlock’s alienated French maid, even made his fellow cast members crack-up at his pouting, sexually aggressive reincarnation.

The Pantaloons are touring around the country until mid-November. However, you will be able to catch them in Broadstairs, where they will be heading on the second leg of their tour in March 2015. Go and see them, they are more than worth a watch.

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