Arts & CultureCampus & City

The adventures and struggles of Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby
Playing: March 18th to 21st (Each show starts at 7:30 p.m. with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday)
Where: Second Playing Space, Timms Center
Written by: Charles Dickens
Starring: Laura Duguay, Chris Pereira, Krystal Johnson, Jessica Watson, Jordan Perrault, Braden Price
Price: Free (sign up in front of the drama office, or email Jackson Longworth)

Through an Inception-like adaptation of an adaptation, students in Drama 457 have taken complex struggles that many people face in society, incorporated them into an epic production of Nicholas Nickleby, and conveyed them in a way that relates to many young university students.

Drama 457 is the final acting class for every drama major finishing their degree. It allows students to take everything they’ve learned in previous courses and put them together to create a full-length production of their choosing. After researching plays and careful consideration, the group ultimately decided on Nicholas Nickleby.

The play, adapted from Charles Dickens’ The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, chronicles a young man in the aftermath of his father’s death. Struggling with money issues and forced into an uncomfortable situation with his heartless uncle, Nickleby steps up to care for his mother and younger sister.

The class takes Brian Deedrick’s studio theatre adaptation and constructs their own version, creating an Inception-like adaptation of an adaptation. They utilize the multiplicity of characters and fast-paced environment to replicate the hustle and bustle of London through a staging technique called thrust theatre.

“We wanted to create the business of London with buying and selling, and lots of burlap,” says Jessica Watson, who plays Ralph Nickleby and is one of three people assisting with costuming.

Thrust theatre gives a three-dimensional aspect that audiences don’t often get while watching in a proscenium theatre, as Krystal Johnson, who plays Tilda and Pluck and is part of the prop design team, describes. Braden Price, who plays Gride and is also partly responsible for lighting, explains that thrust theatre “wraps the audience all the way around,” causing “the audience to feel very immersed in the space and feel like they are in the world of the play.” For the black box area of the second playing space, trust theatre is a great way to utilize the entire area.

For a highly stylized piece like this, students must immerse themselves with the history of the time period. Attention to detail for these students is huge, from the proper trousers, to the smallest detail of a pen. Not only set design and costumes, but mannerisms and language play a huge role as well.

Initially intrigued by Nickleby’s complex character, Laura Duguay naturally fell into the role of the male lead.

“[Nicholas] is very open and follows his impulses like crazy. He stands up for what he believes in,” explains Duguay. “In the end, humans are humans, so you just play the objective and that’s all that it comes down to.”

Ultimately, Nicholas Nickleby deals with complex themes that are real, adverse challenges in anyone’s life. Jordan Perrault, who plays John and Ned Cheeryble, describes how they chose to focus on money issues, and the greed and corruption that can transpire as a result.

“It’s greed versus generosity,” says Chris Pereira, who plays the roles of Mr. Mantalini and Charles Cheeryble, “life and death, hope and despair, family and isolation, isolation and community, and finding a home.”

The play connects with people because it’s relatable. The main character is a young man who leaves the comforts of what he knows and enters into a realm of unfamiliarity. He is forced to embrace his new responsibilities, mainly earning money and supporting his family while remaining true to his morals and caring persona.

“I think university students will really relate, because what are we trying to do here? We’re trying to forge a future for ourselves,” says Watson.

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