FROM the opening carriage ride to the dramatic use of film and sound effects for the stormy finale, it was a treat to see such an imaginative interpretation of a well-known story.
Directed by Dorothy Lowey, the Erin Arts Centre Players’ production of David Copperfield was worth seeing, if only for the glorious portrayal of Mr Micawber by Cameron Byrne, who captured the character’s rosy-cheeked optimism and plaintive bewilderment at his constant misfortune with poignant glee.
Master Davy (Andrew Halsten) had a pathos that touched hearts as he lost his mother, his home and his freedom at the hands of his wicked stepfather, Murdstone, played by Stephen Swales with sadism, together with his truly horrid sister (Ashling Walsh).
Both were malicious and nasty but nothing compared to the hideousness of Nathan Murray’s Uriah Heep, who used his long, bony limbs to resemble nothing less than a malevolent spider lying in wait for the helpless.
The sweet characters were achingly so.
Gentle Emily (Leah Barnes), Davy’s mother (Courtney Harrison), Mrs Micawber (Siobhan Morris), Agnes Wickfield (Phillipa Molna) and the deliciously feckless Dora, played with wide-eyed innocence by Lizzie Archabald as she failed miserably to do anything right, mirrored Micawber’s bewilderment when their trusting natures were abused.
The snobbery of Betsey Trotwood (Lauren Harrison) and simple Mr Dick (Cameron Ledingham) were well matched, as were patient Barkis (Juan Moore) and bustling Pegotty (Mollie Workman). Pegotty was the portrait of sympathy towards young Davy as she tried to protect him and blamed herself when she failed.
Katie Holmes played the duel roles of Steerforth and his furious mother.
James Steerforth oozed sly selfishness, all slithering manipulation in high boots, taking everything from Davy, even his childhood friend Emily; Mrs Steerforth was incandescent with rage as her son was accused by self-righteous Ham (Stephen Swales again) of taking advantage of his daughter.
Katie portrayed the flashing eyes and sneering, pitiless contempt of a real sociopath.
Ham was lucky to get away alive.
Adult David, played confidently by Michael Williams, showed despair at Dora and frustration at Micawber, sorrow for Aunt Betsey and Agnes, outrage at the Steerforths and grief at the death of Dora and Ham.
In short it was a huge range for a young actor and well played.
Colours were used beautifully; the innocent in lilacs and lavenders, the put-upon in browns, beige and golds, the evil in black, red and deep violet and Heep smeared in oily black, making it too much of a contrast with boy Davy’s bright red cap and equally vivid green jacket, jarring in an otherwise sepia production.
The set consisted of boxes artfully used to be everything from a swaying carriage to a coffin, and with large white sheets imaginatively creating rooms and even babies.
It was a shame that so much of the dialogue was raced through.
There are no prizes for getting lines finished first but, that aside, this was a first-rate production that flowed beautifully, making for a very enjoyable evening.
l Erin Arts Centre’s Mananan International Festival of Music and the Arts begins on June 19, running until June 30. See www.erinartscen tre.com for more on the long-running annual festival.