Great Expectations – Adaption of a Classic

Theatre Breaks

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Great Expectations Theatre BreaksGuest Blog Post: In this article Darren Neylon, our Marketing, E-commerce and Commercial Director, reviews his recent theatre trip to see Jo Clifford’s Great Expectations at The Vaudeville Theatre

I was looking forward to travelling with Superbreak to see Jo Clifford’s theatrical adaption of the Dickens classic, ‘Great Expectations’; I recall studying it at school (hasn’t everyone!), although I hadn’t read it for decades. It’s amazing how it all comes flooding back.

The play is told from Pip’s point of view and literally power-walks through the entire novel in two hours. It includes all the leading characters: the beautiful Estella, Pip (both young and old), the convict Magwitch (who comes from nowhere to dominate the ending), Jaggers and, of course, the tragic Miss Haversham.

I’d forgotten how dark the story is. It starts with Magwitch threatening to slit Pip’s throat in a graveyard, and then proceeds to describe Magwitch’s wretched life and his abuse by the legal system, Miss Haversham’s jilting at the altar which led to her training her adopted daughter, Estella, to treat men with cruelty and contempt, while Pip grows from being abused by Mrs Joe and Wopsle, to later being trained himself on how to be condescending to servants. The cast’s make up and wardrobe are suitably dramatic and reinforce the overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation felt throughout. The stage is amazingly set in a single room, with the actors brilliantly transporting the audience through various imagined settings, despite the actual physical stage remaining the same. The sheer acting skill of the cast successfully carries this aspect off to perfection.

I recall spending months back at school delving into the various characters in Dickens’ Great Expectations, interpreting who they were and trying to make sense of their relationships with each other and what was driving their respective behaviours. The brilliance of this play is that it manages to delve almost as deeply and to portray the characters almost as comprehensively as the book in a little more than two hours. It is worth seeing for that alone. Acting highlights for me were Taylor Jay-Davies (as Young Pip), Chris Ellison (as Magwitch), Paula Wilcox (as Miss Haversham) and Jack Ellis (as Jaggers). I do feel a bit mean singling these actors out though because the entire cast was fantastic.

Lovers of classic novels should enjoy this theatre adaption. The play is true to the novel and yet uses the drama of theatre to bring the story to life in a way I couldn’t have imagined. At times it was almost over-dramatised and overly-theatrical, but this kept the audience suitably entertained. I emerged with a strong sense that I’d enjoyed it and would say that it’s definitely worth popping along with Superbreak to take a look.

PS. Superbreak sincerely wishes a speedy recovery to the lady who had a heart attack in the Dress Circle which stopped the show with 10 minutes remaining. We understand she is recovering well and commend the Producers for later restarting and finishing the show for the benefit of those who remained in the theatre. 

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