The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby [VHS]
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|Genre||Action & Adventure|
|Format||Box set, Color, NTSC|
|Contributor||Cathryn Harrison, Janet Dale, Lila Kaye, Alun Armstrong, Bob Peck, John McEnery, Emily Richard, Tony Imi, Jane Downs, David Threlfall, Roger Rees, Edward Petherbridge, Suzanne Bertish, Terry Bennell See more|
|Number Of Discs||9|
|Runtime||7 hours and 48 minutes|
Originally published in monthly installments, Charles Dickens' novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby was a London sensation. Through the characters of Nicholas, his sister Kate, and their Uncle Ralph, readers relished Dickens' outrage at the injustices of wealth and poverty in Victorian England. The Tony Award winning presentation by the Royal Shakespeare Company captures the master storyteller's epic in all its wickedness and wonder. Originally staged in London and on Broadway, the production features 39 actors playing 150 roles everything from baronets to beggars, aristocrats to outcasts. Starring Roger Rees as the heroic Nicholas, this special collector's edition captures one of the greatest theatrical experiences of all time.
Yes, it's nine hours long. Yes, it's Charles Dickens, he of the 900-page novels you had to read in high school. And, yes, it's a film of a play. But the Royal Shakespeare Company's Tony Award-winning 1981 production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby at London's Old Vic Theatre was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and those of us who missed its Emmy-winning PBS broadcast can be thankful for A&E's superb video boxed set. Dickens's story of greed, poverty, and cruelty in Victorian England is handled deftly by director Jim Goddard and set designer John Napier, who never deny their film's staginess but instead seek to exploit it, unafraid to show the viewer the skeletal nature of the theater and, in one instance, boldly using actors as props. The RSC makes excellent use of this mise en scène, bringing to life Dickens's characters with intensity, verve, and just the right notes of melodrama--this being a Dickens story, after all.
Roger Rees plays the young, earnest Nicholas, whose father's death prompts him; his sister, Kate (Emily Richard); and their mother (Jane Downs) to make their way to London to seek out the financial assistance of Nicholas's cold, calculating uncle, Ralph Nickleby (played to scowly perfection by John Woodvine). Ralph grudgingly provides his nephew with employment at a Yorkshire school for abandoned boys under the cartoonishly vile Wackford Squeers (Alun Armstrong), but Nicholas can't stomach the physical abuse Squeers heaps on his students. After lashing out at the sadistic schoolmaster during a particularly savage beating of a child, Nicholas escapes the school, taking with him the most wretched of the young creatures, a limping, crooked-backed boy named Smike (played heart-wrenchingly by David Threlfall). The story unfolds from there, with the now-itinerant Nicholas forced to make his way in the world while adhering to his principles and protecting Kate and their mother from his scheming uncle, who is eventually forced to come to terms with his emotions in the story's shocking conclusion. Typically Dickensian, the characters are neatly divided between good and evil, with little ambiguity. Still, each of the 39 actors in the ensemble does a wonderful job, making it a production that figures to linger in the memory long after you're done clapping. --Steve Landau
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Package Dimensions : 9.9 x 7.8 x 4.3 inches; 3.95 Pounds
- Run time : 7 hours and 48 minutes
- Release date : September 24, 2002
- Date First Available : December 7, 2006
- Actors : Alun Armstrong, Suzanne Bertish, Janet Dale, Jane Downs, Cathryn Harrison
- Studio : A&E Home Video
- ASIN : 6303416543
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As for the show, it's one of those rare productions that give one of Dickens's sprawling tales the room it needs. It's dazzlingly acted by England's best theater actors. Fans of British TV will see literally dozens of familiar faces.
I wish there were some way to folks to see this for a reasonable cost, but it appears we'll have to wait for a reissue—hopefully recut in the manner of the original RSC production.
P.S. (Several years later) It seems that this wonderful production can now be streamed on Amazon (and perhaps other places). And used copies of the DVD set are going for under $40. So no you have no excuse for not enjoying this peerless theatrical adventure. Seriously, if you love live theater, you'll go ga-ga for this.
There is a lot to listen in this version, it starts with the whole cast telling, what happened before Nicholas, Kate and their mother came to London to seek help from Uncle Ralph, in the beginning of other acts there are 'what has happened' -scenes (which are wonderful!) - and at times the actors comment or fill in the facts - and then again become clouds, walls, poor people watching in from behind the windows or rich people eating well inside the same windows. This is smooth working, flawless, yet clearly something that they love to do and have fun doing it. Everybody's been telling, how much they love John Woodvine as uncle Ralph, but I still want to praise him - and wonder about how effortlessly he becomes an opera singer and a few moments later appears again as Uncle Ralph. David Threlfall is a heart-breaking Smike, twisted from head to toe, o-u-t-cast whose only home is Nicholas. And Alun Armstrong deserves his place in the closing credits for more than alphabetical reasons, his Squeers is wonderful, horrible, hilarious as the whole Squeers family. He later appears as a drunken actor, who saves the day as king in 'Romeo and Juliet', the Crummles' production with happy endings for everyone. Men who play Cheeryble brothers looked so much alike that I had to check they weren't twins, but had completely different family names. And their fury was something to see: when they decide to take ultimate measures to lighten to work of their clerk, they threaten him with making him a partner.
I would still like to mention other Squeers: Lila Kaye, Mrs. Squeers and later Mrs. Crummles, both wonderful performances which I still remembered well after all these years, and Suzanne Bertish, who has to be admired and envied for such delicious, different parts as Fanny Squeers, Miss Snevellici and Peg Sliderskew, the old hag who has a big part in the happy ending.
And yes: the technical transfer to DVD could have been much better done. As wonderful as these actors are, we don't need to see their names so many times. But even if I had to skip and fast forward, this was still a delight. Dickens is one of my favourites and this is one of those very, very rare occasions, when one can say: the movie (or play) was as good as the original book.
I was unable to find this anywhere, until I purchased it through Amazon. It is an amazing performance which combines the bleakness of the Dickensian novel with an amusing wit and LOTS of asides--sort of like if Dickens had worked with Shakespeare, THIS is what they would come up with.
There are 9 episodes, each lasting an hour a piece--commercial-free and well worth the investment of time and money. A great addition to your DVD library. I can't say enough great things about this production.
Top reviews from other countries
Still, I would really, really like subtitles! Trying to interpret simultaneously from English into Danish to open up Dickens to my children is ... I admit it ... a difficult task.
I saw it 3 times on TV and once in the theatre (what a day!). When it finally appeared on DVD I flew at the shelves! I've watched it 2 or 3 times since then, and I just now (Christmas Eve) watched the entire thing again at one sitting. It chokes me up every time.
Special mention also for the magnificent, stirring and character-filled music by Stephen Oliver.
Of course, Dickens' book is wonderful, the story and characters are marvellous and Trevor Nunn's adaption is amazing. And the cast then - WOW! As the others said, only Roger Rees has one part, Nicholas Nickleby, and it's easy to see it would be rather impossible to give him other parts, Nicholas being on stage so much. Others have several parts from opera singers to clouds and walls. (Thank you for the leaflet that has the cast and their roles) Rees is a bit old for his part but still creates a very believable, innocent Nicholas. On the other hand: schoolboys are all adults and such is great acting, that you don't want to laugh when they claim to be 7 or 8 years old. Smike is - of course - the most heartbreaking of them, twisted from head to toe, pale and crippled, o-u-t-cast, as he himself says.
The Squeers family stands out, with excellent performances by Alun Armstrong as Mr. Squeers, Lila Kaye as Mrs. Squeers and later as Mrs. Crummles, another kind of 'femme formidable', and Suzanne Bertish, who has to envied and admired for such diverse and delicious parts as Fanny Squeers, Miss Snevellici and Peg Sliderskew, the old hag. They are horrible and wonderful and hilarious! And you don't wonder a bit, why the audience roars, when they get what they so rightly deserve. Alun Armstrong is the first in the closing credits, but he really deserves that place for more than alphabetical reasons.
Uncle Ralph, John Woodvine, is chilling - and it's worth seeing him as an opera singer and just a few moments later as Ralph Nickleby again. And Newman Noggs with his wonderful, droopy face is priceless! I also enjoyed so much the short 'what has happened so far' -scenes at the beginning of acts.
This is theatre at its best, I've never seen anything like this and - I'm afraid - will not see again. My only complaints are technical ones. The picture and sound are good, but why do we have to see the closing credits more than ten times? The acts have been cut into 2-3 parts, so that if you need to stop watching, you don't have to watch the whole act when you can resume watching - but still some of the parts are over 50 minutes long and if you need to stop, you have to fast forward to where you were. And every part ends with those credits. Fortunately you can skip them. Technical flaws aside, this is immortal.
I first saw this on television when it was shown on Channel 4 in 1982 and I videoed it and watched it so often I know it by heart. I can still watch it and see new nuances and subtleties. It is the best drama production I have ever seen.
It is NOT a crinoline and bonnet romp. You have to remember it was written by leading left-wing playwright David Edgar in tandem with the brilliant Trevor Nunn (and based on not a bad novel to boot) and a brilliant team of actors, designers and so on.
It is a political satire but brilliantly human and humane. And hilarious too.
Just spot the variety of relationships explored - parent/child, friendship, siblings, master and servant, husband and wife. And the commentary on the role of money in society. Not much different from today, eh?
All the actors are uniformly excellent (Emily Richard is the only Kate I've seen who is as feisty as Nicholas and not at all simpering) in all their numerous roles but best of all is the wonderful David Threlfall. Watch and weep.