A couple of weeks ago I was invited to watch Great Expectations at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End. Now, I have to admit that I've never read the Dicken's classic, but having seen various television versions I do know that its rather long, and I was interested to see how it had been interpreted into a 2 hour play.
The set is a static design, depicting a large hall inside Satis House, Miss Havisham's dusty, decaying mansion, which stands frozen in time since she was left humiliated and heartbroken having been jilted on her wedding day.
The large dining table in the middle acts as a stage in itself, with characters using it throughout the play to transport themselves to otherworldly places, settings and situations. The mildewy old walls literally have holes in, with larger than life characters and the varying ages of Pip of entering the stage through them. The huge mirror hanging above the mantlepiece played a ghostly part, with characters appearing eerily in it looming above the stage.
The heavy use of white make up creates a sinister yet larger than life effect and the cobwebs gracing every corner of Miss Havisham's setting have made their way onto everyone's clothes, making me want to take a feather duster to the stage!
For me the overall effect was that of a pop-up version of the book - characters in their oversized costumes and creepy make up, brought the words to life in a dark yet fun way. The sound effects also seemed to be piped around the theatre like in a cinema, helping to affirm that more than 3D effect.
I enjoyed Paula Wilcox's Miss Haversham, and spent most of the play trying to figure out what I had seen her in before, (turns out she is one of those actresses that has been in lots of tv dramas), and the recognisable The Bill veteran Chris Ellison, was perfect in the role of convict Magwitch. I wasn't a huge fan of Pip, either young or old; the older Pip, who served as a narrator, just seemed to hang about on the stage a lot and didn't really add much to the overall story.
I can't tell you how closely it stayed to Dicken's classic, but as I haven't read the novel, I can say that as a piece of theatre it stands alone from the book, and its vivid, larger than life style is a theatrical delight.
You can buy tickets here