Great Expectations

Belgrade Main House, Coventry


I had great expectations of Great Expectations and they were exceeded by a mile or two. The production is wonderful, versatile and intelligent with a cast of nine playing all the characters in a cleverly staged – if rather lengthy – adaption of Charles Dickens classic rags to riches and back again tale.

It is a complex and lengthy story. Young orphan Pip (Sean Aydon) -aka Philip Pirrip – has met Magwitch (Daniel Goode), a hungry, escaped convict. Under duress, Pip steals food from his sister (Eliza Collins) and Blacksmith Joe Gargery (Edward Ferrow) for him.

Uncle Pumblechook (James Dinsmore) arranges for Pip to visit the jilted hermit Miss Havisham (Nichola McAuliffe) where he also meets her ward, the love of his life, the ‘hard, harsh and capricious’ Estella (Isla Carter).

Joe’s fortunes change as he meets London lawyer Jaggers (James Dinsmore) who advises him that he has property and needs an education and allowance to suit. In London, he moves in with new friend Herbert Pocket (James Camp).

Pip wrongly assumes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor and visits often. Estella starts to move in London circles and eventually marries notorious socialite Bentley Drummle (Daniel Goode).

Dickens original tale has an unhappy ending but fellow writer and friend Wilkie Collins advised that it wasn’t suitable. Newly widowed Estella meets Pip again in better circumstances having discovered his true benefactor as Magwitch the convict.

It is a busy cast and the final member to be mentioned, Ollie King, provided music throughout on fiddle, melodeon and voice. His music and impressive voice work from the entire cast added so much to the production that was already brimful of clever staging and lighting effects.

I particularly liked the symmetry of the production which started with simple lighting effects and rounded off both halves the same way. It was often, however, a bit dark though this suited the tale.

Why has Dickens stood the test of time and why revive the classics for a new look? Though Charles Dickens wrote this piece 150 years ago, Great Expectations still has resonances of poverty, violence, sudden changes in fortune that link our times to his with a silken thread. Directed by Sophie Boyce Couzens, Great Expectations runs to 05-05-18.

Jane Howard


Adapted by Ken Bentley

Produced by Tilted Wig Productions and Malvern Theatres 

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