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David Copperfield at County Hall

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is a Christmas show being staged at County Hall.

The idea of a watching a play in the old GLC council chamber does not immediately appeal. Is it not too associated with recent political drama? Public meetings in the space have not always been successful and there is no stage.

But it turns out to be almost a theatre in the round with a stage built on the floor of the semi-circlular chamber and the chairman's dais removed.

The 220 seats, having been designed in Edwardian times for a full and lengthy meeting of the London County Council, are very generous and comfortable.

The story, adapted by Giles Havergal, is presented by Zenith Productions and The Movieum of London which occupies part of County Hall.

This is a test for several actors. Tristan Bernays who plays Copperfield and is on stage almost all the time, graduated only this year from LAMDA. Elspeth Rae, who plays three roles, is making her stage debut after a string of impressive television credits. Here she manages to project her voice and mostly be heard despite the difficult acoustics. Councillors, the past performers in this vast room, spoke from the auditorium and with the help of microphones.

If this is a pantomime alternative then the funny man is Mr Micawber brillantly played by Jon Elnaugh. Also perfectly cast is Nick Howard-Brown as Uriah Heep. Janet Jefferies manages to overcome any difficulties with a commanding presence as Betsey Trotwood.

The performance runs for just over two and half hours including an interval. This affords a chance to look at the view of the Houses of Paliament from the quiet bar which appeared unprepared for a sudden influx of customers.

This play has a strong cast of eleven for this untried venue. It is just the first production in a series of planned classics and new writing which may be bringing a new permanent theatre space to the South Bank.

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