miss Haversham

Nichola McAuliffe as Miss Haversham

Great Expectations

Malvern Theatre


Tilted Wig Productions and the Malvern Theatres have produced a fresh interpretation of one of Dickens’ most famous and loved novels.

Great Expectations tells the story of Pip whose story begins in the home and forge of the blacksmith Joe Gargery. He then discovers he has a mystery benefactor who has bestowed a fortune upon him, resulting in his move to London. It is also a story of many years of unrequited love, of various reversals of fortunes, of many ups and downs.  

A novel of such complexity, written for publication in a magazine in many weekly episodes, has a vast amount of plot to be captured in two hours on stage. One of the challenges for the writer of such a stage adaptation is to manage so much narration without losing the dramatic life of the individual scenes.

Ken Bentley has made a substantially successful job of meeting this challenge though the show is a long one and at times there are rather lengthy bits of narrative delivered by members of the cast in the second act.

This production has some significant strengths. The atmosphere created on the stage is for the most part quite dark. Life in the 19th Century was hard, harsh and impoverished for most of the population.

As Joe Gargery says at one point : ‘Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears.’ Relationships were stark and this production portrays this grim reality very strikingly. The powerful use of lighting and the musical and general sound effects are very effective. The sound and music are produced generally onstage by the cast with their voices and and various implements or instruments. Using onstage lanterns, dry ice and strong lighting effects there are powerful visual moments too, such as the fire in Miss Haversham’s home.

Nichola McAuliffe plays Miss Haversham with a strongly believable conviction in her icy retreat from a world that has left her devastated. Séan Adonai is Pip: he lacks a bit of charisma but he delivers his lines very clearly and is the other constant role.

The ensemble cast is excellent and lively: there is clear differentiation of character, many having to play a variety of characters and they provide a sharpness as well as pace to a production that moves seamlessly between scenes thanks also to the well-designed set. The set provides a simple abstract frame that adapts quickly and flexibly to suggest the very varied settings of the novel.

The denouement was somewhat underplayed but the overall impact of this show was a largely successful interpretation of Dickens’ complex novel. It received a warm reception from the audience and is performed again from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th February. 15 to 17 February before embarking on a national tour.

Tim Crow


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