Great Expectations, On tour starting in Richmond, September 2012

This intriguingly melodramatic adaptation of Dickens’ novel by Scottish playwright Jo Clifford tells Pip’s story very effectively.

There are two Pips, Paul Nivison as the adult, narrating and facing the ghosts of the past, and the young Pip, brilliantly played by Taylor Jay-Davies. In this stage realisation by Graham McLaren the past ghosts may scream at Pip, but with their ghoulish make-up and the remains of cobwebs on their backs, we know this is all part of his imagination in remembering such terrifying characters. There is a single set for the whole play, which the characters adapt for numerous different scenes, and the flames that burn up Miss Havisham are entirely real.

The duo of her (Paula Wilcox) and Estella (Grace Rowe) was suitably dramatic, Jaggers (Jack Ellis) was vocally assertive, and Steve North and Chris Ellison were wonderfully realistic as the sympathetic father figure Joe Gargery and the dangerous looking convict Magwitch. The dramatic make-up, lighting and costumes help conjure up Dickens’ story and I loved the extraordinarily tall hat worn by Wopsle (James Vaughan).

Excellent movement, particularly the balletic choreography of Nathan Guy on the mantelpiece as Herbert Pocket, and the musical score by Simon Slater with sound production by Matt McKenzie added to the spooky atmosphere. Adapting a novel of nearly 200,000 words to one evening lasting barely more than two hours including an interval is a remarkable achievement, and there are plans to send it to the West End after the autumn tour.

The dates for tour are: New Victoria Theatre, Woking, 18–22 September; Malvern Theatre, 25–29 September; Theatre Royal, Brighton, 2–6 October; New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, 9–13 October; Civic Theatre, Darlington, 16–20 October; The Waterside, Aylesbury, 30 October–3 November; His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 6–10 November — for details click here.

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