- October 3, 2012
How do you take a tome like Great Expectation and decide what to keep and what not to keep for a stage play? Well writer Jo Clifford and director Graham McLaren have made a very fine distillation of this very fine novel. The pure essence of Dickens, the wit and the terror finely delivered in a production that reeks of quality.
From the staggeringly imposing set, the striking costumes and the physicality of the staging to the extraordinary cast this is almost without fault.
It starts slowly reflecting the innocence of Pip’s roots, but as the plot broadens the pace picks up, at times to an almost frenetic fervor. Chris Ellison plays a great Magwitch, that strange twist of criminal killer with whom we sympathise. Jack Ellis is stunning as Jaggers, a confident and imposing stage presence. Steve North has all the rustic innocence and heart to make Joe Gargery the constant thread the story so needs, and Paula Wilcox makes Miss Haversham her own, no easy task. Paul Nivison and Taylor Jay-Davies are joined at the hip as the young and older Pip and the rest of the cast are truly exceptional. Praise too for Kai Fischer who has lit the set without fear of using darkness as much as he uses light.
This is a massive production, lavish in every sense and never once lacking the real heart of a Dickens, that fine balance of tragedy, comedy, horror, fear and philanthropy. Thought-provoking as it is, it is never short of entertainment either although the few comic moments do tend to be played for darkness rather than light relief.
Graham McLaren who conceived and directed and Jo Clifford have pulled off a major coup, a Dickens staged with immense style, compelling throughout and brilliantly realised by a company of performers and creatives who all seem to have joined in this very clever vision with one clear voice.
Theatre Royal Brighton, 2 October 2012