Great Expectations for the Theatre

A cold, snowy day in Manchester and twelve Get Into Reading members made the trip to The Library Theatre to see Roger Haines’ fabulously innovative production of Great Expectations. Neil Bartlett’s adaptation was clear and concise. Initially, I was intrigued as to how anyone could manage to adapt this lengthy novel into two and half hours and how in fact, it would be staged.

The play flowed easily, but not so fast as to leave the audience wondering what was going on. This play was in no way a pure narrative, this version unlocked Dickens’ imagery with a fabulously innovative set. Pip speaks of the pressure to contain the compromising aspects of his past behind “many hundreds of doors”, and the exceedingly clever set design included all of them, suggesting tombstones, prison cells and various locations in London. Where there are doors, there are also eavesdroppers: each point in Pip’s journey is witnessed by a whispering chorus peering through keyholes. The presence of these portals created a striking metaphor for the hero’s inability to unlock the truth about his own background.

Dickens’ weird and wonderful characters appeared from behind these doors and popped up from trap doors in the floor with props and furniture, in a series of choreographed movements.The hard-working cast appeared as several characters including Pip’s cruel sister and the lovable Joe Gargery. Richard Heap was a magnificent Magwitch, Claire Redcliffe provided the love interest as the fickle Estella, while Helen Ryan was a chillingly heartless Miss Havisham.

I went with no expectations and returned entranced.

Posted by Alison Walters

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