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The Punch & Judy men - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Punch & Judy
Nell & her grandfather meet the Punch & Judy men - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Nell & Grandfather in the town
Julian Harries as Samson Brass in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Julian Harries & Eloise Kay in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Joe Leat & Tristan Tellerl in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Ivan Wilkinson & Eloise Kay in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP SM
Eloise Kay as Nell in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Brass & Quilp
Eloise as The Marchioness

(All photos © Mike Kwasniak)

After their acclaimed touring productions of The Unhappy Medium & Phantom Bantam of The Opera in 2016, Common Ground return with this riotous, theatrically inventive adaptation, with original live music by Pat Whymark, and featuring Julian Harries as Nell’s grandfather and Samson Brass.


"Little" Nell Trent lives with her devoted grandfather in his London shop, a magical place filled from wall to wall with dust-laden treasures. He keeps his nocturnal gambling a secret but becomes deeply in debt to the villainous loan shark Quilp. When he gambles away what little money they have, The Old Curiosity Shop is seized by Quilp as payment and Nell and her grandfather are forced to flee London. On the run, and with Quilp on their trail, the pair fall in with a succession of colourful characters, some friendly, some ominous. Over time, she becomes the parent and he the child, a burden which starts to take its toll on her.

The novel was a sensation when it was serialised in 1840-41. The excitement at the release of the last installment has been compared to the publishing of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was so popular that New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final instalment arrived in 1841.


In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens gave to the world some of his most enduring fictional characters, such as the almost demonic Daniel Quilp, the rakish but good-hearted Dick Swiveller and "The Marchioness"


Karl Marx asserted that Dickens "issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together".


Julian Harries - Grandfather, Samson Brass

Eloise Kay - Nell, Mrs Quilp, The Marchioness

Joe Leat - Fred, Trotters, Sally Brass, Mrs Nubbles, Tom Scott

Tristan Teller - Dick Swiveller, Kit Nubbles, Codlin, George

Ivan Wilkinson - Quilp, The Single Gentleman, Mrs Jarley


Musician - Alfie Harries

Direction and Music by Pat Whymark

Lighting design by Philip Rawe

Set design by Julian Harries


Thanks to Penny Griffin, Janice Leat & Karen Simpson & Heidi McEvoy-Swift

(from the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, for the loan of costumes)


“Lively and most entertaining...The play has a wonderful flow...These talented actor-musicians often chop and change characters with ease. The humour is great and there are plenty of ‘one liners’ to add to the chuckles"

 Robert Wright, Eastern Daily Press

“Takes Dickens’ story seriously as well as briskly while allowing space for character development. Notably these include Kit and Dick Swiveller. The Punch and Judy show is a delight – that’s the way to do it! ”


Anne Morley-Priestman,

"rising to real solid pleasure...evoking a vivid sense of place and time"


 Libby Purves,

"a cast of 5, each playing multiple characters – and brilliantly so I might add...great wit and humour...perfect for audiences in East Anglia, and if you can nab a ticket, definitely do so as the show makes a jolly good evening out."

Molly the Blogger

As Dickens sends Nell on her perilous journey through life, the strong, multi-talented cast of Common Ground tackle the many characters she meets with wit, skill, and wonderful music – plus a proper Punch and Judy show along the way... Whymark’s music grows throughout the story, with most of the cast picking up instruments at different times to accompany each other in song (violins, guitars, a squeezebox, the list goes on). Everyone on stage sings with resonant charm, creating rich, intense harmonies in full chorus, or poignant character moments when solo, Whymark’s melodies always feeling inspired by English folk traditions. As the evening unfolds, the many talents being displayed on stage just keep astonishing us. Above all, everyone rises to the significant challenge of acting so many different characters with calm charisma and satisfyingly detailed focus... . When I got home, I couldn’t wait to get the novel out.


Charlotte Valori,

"...witty, engaging, and very entertaining".

David Vass, Corn Hall blog

"...truly excellent interpretation of  Dickens “The Old Curiosity Shop”.

Every cast member was convincing and brilliant..t’was, we thought, your best production yet...worthy of a London stage".  "...a brilliant adaptation of the book and the five members of the cast who each played several roles were amazing "  " absolutely brilliant. We enjoyed every moment"

Audience feedback

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