This Nicholas Nickleby is the Royal Shakespeare Company's epic eight-and-a-half-hour adaptation of the life and times of the eponymous school-teacher. The 1982 production (originally staged in two parts) won worldwide acclaim and was such a success that Britain's then-newest TV station, Channel 4, launched a joint venture with independent production company Primetime to bring Nicholas Nickleby to a television audience. The result is this wonderfully theatrical version, filmed at the Old Vic and starring much of the original stage cast. It manages to stay true to Trevor Nunn's original artistic vision of Dickens's damning incitement of England's educational system.
The ensemble cast are superb: Roger Rees as Nicholas is a bright-eyed idealist, every inch the young romantic hero whose principles are often his downfall, but ultimately his salvation; Alun Armstrong's twisted, embittered Squeers is every inch the Dickensian villain; and David Threlfall is transformed as Smike, Squeers' piteously subjugated, crippled servant and gives the most moving performances of his career.
This enthralling TV adaptation recreates the magic of the stage version for all those who were unable to catch it on its pitifully short run. It doesn't pull any punches as the humour and inspiring storyline are tempered with real dark and tragic episodes. Forget the Hollywood fluff, this is the version you should watch if you want a faithful retelling of Dickens's story.