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Nicholas Nickleby
by Charles Dickens, dramatised by Rob Kendall

Tue 4 - Sat 8 December 2012 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepuchre, Sheep Street, Northampton Map >

Production No. 393

More images from Nicholas Nickleby

Rob Kendall, director

As well as Masque celebrating its 80th year, our production of Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby comes 200 years after his birth.

The novel was begun in 1838 and proved to be immensely popular following on from the success of Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. However, at over 750 pages long and with many additional characters other than the Nicklebys, dramatising the novel has proved to be quite a daunting task as very few scripted versions cover the whole Nickleby story (not withstanding the RSC’s nine hour version).

The characters in the story can almost be halved into ‘nice or nasty’ but, as with most Dickens stories, everyone gets their just rewards.

Ste Applegate plays the eponymous hero, Brian Harrap his uncle Ralph (nasty) both of whom take an instant dislike to each other when Nicholas and his mother and sister are thrown on his very thin goodwill.

The plot thickens from there-on-in and includes a full supporting cast of delectable characters that range from the iniquitous Wackford Squeers (Owen Warr), the Dotheboys Hall urchin, Smike (Lewis Marks), theatrical manager Crummles (Phil Purkis), and the Cherryble brothers, led by newcomer Will Johnstone who eventually comes to Nicholas’s aid. And the girl Nicholas falls in love with, Madeline Bray (Amy Whitestone) who is saved from a ‘doomed’ marriage only by the death of her scheming father (Roger Toone).

There are over 40 characters in the novel itself so there has been a little bit of judicious editing and an amalgam of some roles, although we have 24 actors including some Masque Youth Theatre members and others ‘new’ to Masque, who are making it all come alive in period costume aided by the ‘round’ of Holy Seps.

Denise Swan is co-directing with Clare Brittain on costume and stage management and Mark Mortimer on set construction.


Jan Stoppani

I dutifully went along to the Holy Sepulchre Church one cold December evening, wondering whether I should have taken a sleeping bag and hipflask to this reputedly lengthy epic. I need not have feared:  Rob Kendall’s skilful dramatisation of the novel zipped along and remarkably covered the entire story in a far shorter space of time than the RSC!

Ste Applegate, in the title role, portrayed a headstrong young man (clearly outraged at the cruelty and injustices of the time) striving to put Dickensian England to rights.

Meanwhile, Lynette Ashton gave a feisty performance as his sister, Kate, especially when subjected to the inappropriate advances of the lecherous Sir Mulberry Hawk (excellently played by Richard Walker) and Lord Verisopht (a wonderfully foppish performance from Tom Morath).

Brian Harrap relished his role as Nick’s unscrupulous Uncle Ralph, whilst Tony Janney as Ralph’s long-suffering clerk, the kindly Newman Noggs, served to ignite the Christmas spirit in us all.

The cast of thousands included the usual Dickensian assortment of eccentrics, rogues, grotesques, philanthropists and infant phenomena, all taken on-board well by the company, although Lewis Marks’s sustained performance as the crippled, slow-witted Smike stood out from the crowd, as did Phil Purkis’s portrayal of the ever-optimistic Vincent Crummles, director of the pitiful, down-at-heel theatre troupe. Phil also doubled up with Will Johnston to bring us good cheer as the philanthropic Cheeryble brothers.

There were a few first night technical hitches, which I put down to the fact that little time was available in the church prior to the dress rehearsal.

A heart-warming tale, fuelled with Ursula’s excellent mulled wine, sent me out into a cold winter’s night in the true spirit of the season.

Cast & Crew

Ralph Nickleby Brian Harrap
Newman Noggs Tony Janney
Miss La Creevy Sarah Nevell
Nicholas Nickleby Ste Applegate
Mrs Nickleby Liz Allan
Kate Nickleby Lynette Ashton
Wackford Squeers Owen Warr
Waiter Liam Garrick
Belling (boy) Joey Baillon
Mr Snawley Craig Macpherson
Mrs Squeers Sue Howes
Fanny Squeers Natalie Shellard
Smike Lewis Marks
Bolder (boy) Yukiyo Ohashi
Cobbey (boy) Joey Baillon
Greymarsh (boy) Julie Hicks
Coachman Roger Toone
Mr Mantalini Alistair Way
Mrs Mantalini Jessica Lee
Livered Servant Kevin Pinks
Lord Frederick Verisopht Tom Morrath
Sir Mulberry Hawk Richard Walker
Mr Pyke Christopher O'Reilly
Mr Pluck James Attias
Landlord Christopher O'Reilly
Mr Vincent Crummles Phil Purkis
Crummles (boys) Yukiyo Ohashi, Julie Hicks
Mr Lenville Craig Macpherson
Infant Phenomena Julie Hicks
Mrs Crummles Ingrid Heymann
Charles Cheeryble Will Johnston
Tim Linkinwater Craig Macpherson
Ned Cheeryble Phil Purkis
Mr Trimmer Kevin Pinks
Madeline Gray Amy Whitestone
Pedlar Liam Garrick
Old Gent Kevin Pinks
Keeper Christopher O'Reilly
Mr Brooker Kevin Pinks
Frank Cheeryble Tom Morath
John Browdie Alistair Way
Tilda Browdie Julie Hicks
Mr Bray Roger Toone
Arthur Gride Alistair Way
Croupier Craig Macpherson
Westwood Dylan Geoghegan
Captain Adams Will Johnston
Peg Sliderskew Ingrid Heymann
Mrs Snawley Robyn Cullingford

Director Rob Kendall
Co-director Denise Swann
Stage Manager Clare Brittain
Assistant Stage Manager Mark Bartley
Set Construction Mark Mortimer
Wardrobe Clare Brittain
Costume Makers Pam Mann, Amy Stewart, Dorothy Grainger
Additional Costumes Masque Theatre & The Works
Lighting Design Richard Walker, The Works
Lighting Technician Tony White
Photographer Ian Clarke
Programme Design Tamsyn Payne
Front of House Masque Theatre members

A scence from Nicholas Nickleby

Richard Walker as Sir Mulberry Hawk and Ste Applegate as Nicholas Nickleby. Photo by Joe Brown