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Mr Pickwick, our own Indiana Jones

PUBLISHED: 17:06 11 February 2009 | UPDATED: 17:23 16 August 2010

AS Down House is set to win World Heritage status, the Victorian spirit of adventure and observation is also alive and well in Greenwich, writes Jules Cooper.

AS Down House is set to win World Heritage status, the Victorian spirit of adventure and observation is also alive and well in Greenwich, writes Jules Cooper.

The Pickwick Papers, based on Charles Dickens' first novel, brought the naïve and quaint adventures of Samuel Pickwick to Greenwich Theatre with perfect timing last Wednesday. Written 23 years before the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the comical story follows the adventures of Samuel Pickwick, an observer of human behaviour.

Like a Kentish Indiana Jones, the wealthy gentleman, played by Nigel Nevinson, travels between Kent, London and Ipswich and carefully recounts his stories to the Pickwick Society.

A parody of the Darwinian adventurer, our old-fashioned gent falls into trouble when he shares a carriage with the con artist, Alfred Jingle (Richard Mansfield). You suspect Mr Jingle is a womaniser when he comments optimistically: "Kent, sir. Everybody knows Kent - apples, cherries, hops and women" as they set off together.

Eventually, the "strolling actor" betrays Mr Pickwick's companions and runs away with his friend's sister, setting off a farcical chain of events that lands the honourable Mr Pickwick in the dock of the Old Bailey. Despite being rather innocent in its humour, like a modest Canterbury Tale, the performance is hilarious, thanks to the excellence of supporting actors Richard Latham, Vanessa Morley, Paul Lincoln and Nicholas Waters.

While Mr Pickwick stumbles into each adventure, the interchanging actors who play simpleton farm boys, impish lawyers and lovable cockneys supply comic genius.

The Pickwick Papers, a travelling production from the European Arts Company and Rhondda Cynon Taff Theatres, will be back in Kent in March. It will be staged at Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury, on March 27, and Dickens World, Chatham, on March 28.

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