"calmly accomplished, but rather staid"
by Debra Hall for remotegoat on 03/05/18

Over 150 years after its initial publication Great Expectations is the classic novel about class division, social mobility and legal dispositions, and it remains a perennial favourite. The story plot is strangely mysterious and the sub-plots channel themes of love and loss. The dark themes include violent acts and visceral people interaction.

There is a danger, when adapting novels for stage, that some liberties are taken in regard to the glossing over of story and character. While the script is understandably wordy, this giant of a novel has to be compacted down for purpose. Writer of drama, Ken Bentley is hugely successful with what he has accomplished in this new, retelling version for stage.

The narration and the character portrayals are on the shoulders of Sean Aydon as Pip and Nichola McAuliffe as Miss Havisham, plus six members of an ensemble cast who work through this lengthy play with merit and without running out of puff.

The creativity of others is imitated, albeit with sincerity. The utilizing of the set, for example, with actors sitting on and moving around the front sides and back of framework is not dissimilar to National Theatre's recent staging of Jane Eyre, with Pip, (like Jane was) being dressed while standing on a pedestal. And Aydon, as the young Pip, speaks his lines with a falsetto intonation similar to Jamie Bell (Smike) in the 2002 film version of Nicholas Nickleby. I think it is fair to say that Aydon’s lines become more audible and better enjoyed once his character comes of age! While McAuliffe plays her key character not to the book as such, but there is a brittle kind of suggestiveness to characterisations of the female kind who present a certain wide-eyed, muscle stretched and statuesque quality to a performance - I’m thinking Sian Phillips and Penelope Keith as an example. That said McAuliffe is not impersonating anyone particularly as it is obvious that her Miss Havisham has been carefully cultivated.

The players are very good, questionable however that actors are well cast overall, but Edward Ferrow (an actor trained in the classics) is a wonderfully, expressive Joe Gargery.

Reviewer has witnessed a truer sense of Victoriana in other stage productions, but there are some highlights and lows are minimal. The experience is like watching a pebble being skimmed across the surface of a lake because it is a calmly accomplished piece but this production does not step outside Dickens' classic story in any kind of dynamic sense.

The length 2 hours 40 minutes approx (this includes interval break)

Malvern Theatres and Tilted Wig Productions

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