18 Dec

reat Expectations ****
adapted by Lydia Vie from the novel by Charles Dickens
at the Playground Theatre

I have rarely seen anything more classically picturesque than the tableau we see as we enter the theatre. Eirini Kariori , the designer has presented us with three raised platforms. The highest of these is in the middle and there sits the magnificent figure of Miss Havisham, looking like the statue of a divine goddess in her Victorian wedding dress. On the floor in front of her is the pretty child Estella apparently playing with a toy pony. On each side are the other two platforms, one with a cosy scene of the blacksmith, Joe Gargery’s house, complete with glowing fire and Joe and Mrs Gargery preparing supper. On the other side we are in the gloomy churchyard, with Gravestones and the hungry Magwitch crouching in fear. Between the platforms there are two trellis screens covered in flowers. The effect is stunning and give a wonderful atmospheric start to the favourite Dickens story.
We are let in to the theatre about ten minutes before the play stats and they are all already in place and totally motionless.
As the music starts the tableaux come to life and Miss Havisham begins to speak.
This adaptation is very cleverly based on the David Lean movie. with the boy Pip being terrified by the Convict and Miss Havisham reciting her story of hate. Estella is the most enchanting child and no wonder Pip is startled into silence when he sees her.
Helen Bang is powerfully elegant as Miss Havisham and Estelle, the girl with a heart of ice is the stunning Denise Moreno.
No wonder young Pip longs to be a gentleman in order to join this group. He is an apprentice blacksmith, definitely a lower class boy. The actor, Samuel Lawrence has the task of being a young rough kid growing up into an aristocratic gentleman. It does not matter that he always remains the same, except for a growth of pomposity when he becomes rich and puts on the stovepipe hat;. He still remains the blacksmith boy at heart, especially when he finds out the origin of his money. His friend Herbert Pocket, helps him into his posh gear. This is a delightfully funny performance by Shaun Amos, especially in the earlier scene when he is the ‘pale young man’ who enters into a scrap with Pip and is defeated by the blacksmiths superior strength.
This is a beautifully presented show with some first class actors. Peter Rae is the sinister Magwitch, David Furlong is the lawyer Jaggers. The lovely and loving Joe is played with great sympathy by Matthew Wade and Fanny Dulin is just the opposite as Mrs Joe. She also plays Molly in the later scenes.
The adaptation by Lydia Vie is perhaps a little wordy – a problem with Mr Dickens,- and the final denouement seems to come in at a bit of a rush. There is just too much happening and too many complications to dwell on anything.
Anastasia Revi has directed with a keen knowledge and love of the material.
Congratulations to the Theatre Lab Company and to Anthony Biggs of the Playground Theatre.

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