The College was determined to mark the bicentenary year of the birth of Charles Dickens with a production, so the Drama Department commissioned Judith French to write a script based on some of Dickens’s most theatrical characters, for a group of Year 9 boys and their teachers, to perform in the Masters’ Library.
The result was Fiddle and Squeeze, in which genteel yet impoverished schoolmaster Nicholas Nickleby, fallen on hard times and desperate for work, stumbles upon larger-than-life actor-director Vincent Crummles. Nickleby and his travelling-companion Smike, a frail, terrified schoolboy whom Nicholas has rescued from the clutches of wicked Northern schoolmaster Wackford Squeers, agree to join Mr Crummles’s company. This is the basic plot of Nicholas Nickleby, the novel which includes Little Nell, the ‘bestial and villanous dwarf’, Daniel Quilp, and the ‘well-bred fop’ Dick Swiveller, among others.
Dramatist Judith French cleverly added an extra layer to this already complex plot , imagining that Mr Crummles has advance knowledge of Dickens’s plots, before the novels have even been written, ‘on account’ as he explains to the bemused Nicholas, ‘ of our connection with the Author, and our power, as the progeny of his imagination, to walk through the innermost recesses of his mind!’ The comedy that ensues is both fizzing and surreal!
The show starred William Joynson as Nicholas Nickleby and Mr Trevill as Vincent Crummles. They were supported by a superb cast of Year Nine boys, all of them versatile enough to play a variety of characters, and by Miss Akrill and Miss Spence as domineering and downtrodden Mrs Crummles and Mrs Quilp.
The full cast and crew
Mr Crummles / Wackford Squeers – Al Trevill
Nicholas Nickleby – William Joynson
Smike / Pip – William Nash
Vincent Crummles / Mr Dick Swiveller/ schoolboy – Jack Cox
Landlord / schoolboy – Jack Firman
Percy Crummles / Quilp / schoolboy – Thomas Baldachin
Mrs Crummles / Mrs Squeers – Jo Akrill
Miss Snevellicci / Mrs Quilp / Fanny Squeers – Lucy Spence
Magwitch the Convict / Mr Lenville/ schoolboy boy – Marko Marsenic
The Infant Phenomenon / passenger – Rory McKinley
Coachman / Mr Johnson / schoolboy – Hamish Lloyd Barnes
Guard / Mr Folair / schoolboy – Harry Warren
Jerry Cruncher / Mr Digby / schoolboy - Jack Theophanous
Mr Lorry / Mr Fluggers / schoolboy – George Hearnden
Produced by Jo Akrill
Music composed and arranged by Peter Watson
Accordion played by Peter Watson and fiddle played by Jo Akrill
Directed by Jo Akrill, Lucy Spence and Al Trevill
Costumes by Maggie Jarman
Props by Sam Mercer
Review by Jo Akrill