Charles Dickens wrote the play Sikes And Nancy to chart the chilling and most infamous murder of his tragic character Nancy by the cold and brutal Bill Sikes in his novel Oliver Twist. This one man adaptation by James Swanton is also performed by the actor himself. The stark staging consists of just six wooden chairs as props and the sound in the distance of water eerily dripping in Victorian London.
Swanton dressed in all black, mainly transitions from the Narrator to Fagin, Sikes, Nancy and Mr Brownlow with such seamless ease that it feels like the play was written for him. His whole entire being becomes the character he is portraying with bulging eyes and contorted body. His posture stooping to create the repulsive Fagin was a real wonder to behold.
When the narration was interjected throughout the play for brief moments the true depth and colour of Swanton’s voice was exposed with it's open vowels and expressiveness that is such a rarity. His voice was one made for theatre his effortless projection as well as authority with great conviction.
The pitiful Nancy was at her most exposed when she professed ‘I have led a bad life too’ to Mr Brownlow, this sense of remorse was tenderly handled by Swanton who also brought this to forefront again after Sikes murders Nancy when he exclaims ‘Such flesh!’ These couple of words summed up the horror of the act that had just been committed and Swanton brought such a desperation at the sight of a lifeless blood stained Nancy in front of him.
The only slight problem with a one man adaptation of Sikes and Nancy is that although the transitions in to character are flawless on the part of Swanton, the physicality of having to switch seating positions during a conversation for example between Nancy and Mr Brownlow could be quite manic for an audience to digest.
At a duration of an hour this adaptation of Sikes and Nancy is very much the brainchild of James Swanton who has put every inch of his flesh in to this gothic horror to the point where he IS the play. An acting talent of unique depths and outstanding characterisation I feel he makes you feel an emotional attachment to the Sikes and Nancy characters because of the fact he has just literally become them in front of you. This level of commitment and intensity is something I look forward to seeing from him in his future theatrical roles.