Thoughts on Great Expectations (stage)

I finally know what Great Expectations is about.

As a child, I’d tried to read this classic by Charles Dickens but I didn’t make it beyond the first chapters and was daunted to ever try again so I jumped at the chance to watch people playing it out before me. This was my first play in the UK and I was pretty excited. The review will really be lumping production, book and experience since it’ll be the first proper time I come into contact with Great Expectations, so it’ll be completely subjective.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

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This production of Great Expectations was adapted by Michael Eaton and directed by Lucy Bailey for the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The play opens with the grave scene and the young Pip, played by the precocious Rhys Gannon, immediately draws my attention as he recites the epitaph on his parents’ grave.

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Rhys Gannon here with young Herbert Pocket played by Magnus Cameron

I liked the little Pip, the only sign of life in the dismal setting. He had a lovely, clear voice and he played up to his image of the frightened boy under the threats of the criminal, Magwitch, and under the roof of not-so-nice sister, Mrs Joe Gargery.

I also liked little Estella, who comes in later when Pip goes to Miss Havisham. She was a pert, charming creature who was very good at looking down on Pip lol lol. Love the kid actors, they were really good. I can’t find the name of the actress who played her (they didn’t credit the kids on the website) but she’s really cute and she was a brill Estella.

And I loved Miss Havisham played by Jane Asher.

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Haha I thought she was really pretty even though she was supposed to be sinister and scary and stuff, with her really pale make up and ragged wedding dress. There was a point in the play where there was a ball and she was one of the dancers (it was a small cast so there were repeats everywhere) and was made up quite normally. She was really beautiful there. Asher was portraying the old, witch-like character, twisted by a tragic love story of being left at the altar. I thought that was a really interesting premise accounting for the way she acts and how she brings up Estella to lead men on with her beauty and then spurn them, as her revenge on the male sex. I’m really interested in Miss Havinsham’s relationship with Estella which only climaxed at the end when Estella revealed that she was going to marry a Mr. Bentley Drummle, or really any man at all. Because Miss H has completely lost her faith in men. Which made me wonder why she took Pip in. I understood why she took him for a ride though, typical Miss H.

Went to google Asher a bit and I found out she’s kind of a baker too haha so cool. Click this to watch her make cake pops.

I didn’t like the adult Pip as much. He was played by Daniel Boyd who was not bad looking but I just didn’t like Pip’s character anymore. So flighty and naive. I don’t know if that was the point (never read the book) but it just didn’t seem consistent with the kid Pip. Oh wells.

The grown up Estella played by Shanaya Rafaat. She was charming in her own right, but not in the same way as the kid Estella. Very lovely and proud.

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Daniel Boyd as Pip and Shanaya Rafaat as Estella

I couldn’t say that the grown up Pip and Estella particularly appealed to me but I did appreciate the ending scene when Estella had the wind taken out of her sails having been married to Drummle for a bit, and when Pip isn’t quite so flighty. The hard lessons they went through served them well, methinks, and it suggested a potential relationship with more matured characters. I just like how Pip wasn’t so silly over her anymore.

I also liked Pip’s friend, Herbert Pocket, played by Patrick Walshe McBride. I liked Herbert. He was the kind of friend everyone wanted, or at least, I should want. He knows the ropes and is quite classy about everything. Really good comic relief. I liked how calm he was when Magwitch was at his throat. A cartoon.

I like the Joe Gargery character played by Bill Nash too. What a nice man like him sees in Mrs Joe baffles me.

It also astonished me that it was Rose Wardlaw who played both Mrs Joe and Biddy. Wardlaw was suitably off putting as the sour Mrs Joe but was so sweet and patient as Biddy. I couldn’t believe it was the same person at first. It’s amazing how a smile can change a person’s countenance so much.

Other thoughts apart from the production itself:

It was quite new for me to watch a performance where the actors didn’t have mikes. The men were so hearty and loud that there was no need for it. They were so loud. 

The staging was pretty cool. It was a rotating stage so there were two sets. The sad thing was it kept rotating to face the right side so it was fine for the audience seated in the middle and right section but annoying for me; I was on the left. I would have gotten better seats but I went with Ruth who was thrifty about these things so we got the cheaper seats. Much restricted viewing.

The playhouse is kind of like a movie theatre from the lobby side. A bit retro. It was cool.

It ended pretty late at about 11 and it was about an half hour walk from the playhouse. We followed google maps and went by a route which was a bit out of the way. A bit dangerous so we went home through town. I got an apple pie from Macs for supper. Hungryy.

Yep so it was good, save for the restricted viewing. Loved the kids, they were amazing. Didn’t have many deep thoughts about it because I didn’t care for Pip after he grew up. I only cared about Miss H and a bit of Estella~

Finally know what Great Expectations is about yay.

 

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