Many seasonal shows this year will invoke the spirit of Charles Dickens - after all, he virtually invented Christmas. However, few will do it with such panache as Gonzo Moose. Following last year’s triumphant Grimm Brothers caper, What the Dickens? romps through Victorian London with wit and ingenuity, and as many types of laugh as possible - slapstick for the kids, knowing pastiche for the adults, and eccentricity that will appeal to all.
A scene from What the Dickens at the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford Photo: Farrows Creative
The plot could have come out of a triple-decker novel by the man himself. There are journalistic riddles, mistaken identities and madcap chases through the city fog. Meanwhile, London is a gallery of rogues and rapscallions - one-armed gravediggers, bosomy barmaids and gouty lawyers, all played with gusto by a versatile cast of three. Everyone will have their favourites, from the bubbly housekeeper Agatha (Emily Murphy) to the wise owl (Neil Haigh) who advises Dickens from his rooftop roost. These character sketches are utterly on the ball - there are shades of Mrs Gamp and Gradgrind among others - but they also allow for genius spoofery from outside Victoriana.
It’s an intelligent balance that makes this show an absolute winner. What the Dickens? is a hoot from start to finish, and will no doubt leave many audience members asking, “Please sir, can I have some more?”