THIS clever and amusing adaptation of Dickens’ novel by the Henley Players creates three scenes on stage simultaneously in the
THIS clever and amusing adaptation of Dickens’ novel by the Henley Players creates three scenes on stage simultaneously in the first half.
Joe Gargery’s blacksmith forge lies to the right, Pip’s London lodgings to the left while Miss Havisham is enthroned between them. The adult Pip acts as narrator whilst young Pip is on stage and the action flows smoothly one episode to the next, without the need to move scenery or props.
The transition from young to adult Pip is particularly well handled as are Pip’s changes of accent. The dialogue is authentic, with words and pronunciation familiar from the novel, and very amusing. At other times the satire and dilemmas in the social situations is skilfully conveyed by the bearing and gestures of the actors, as well as their expressive delivery.
Peter O’Sullivan as Joe is especially affecting, as is Frank Augur as Magwitch. Jaggers’ (Tim Green) enunciation could be clearer but his character and role in the complex story are well conveyed. Dear Herbert Pocket (Harry Petrie) was his lovable self. Whilst the whole story can never be told in an evening’s play, all the well-known roles are there and evoke our emotions without descending into bathos or caricature.
In the second half more scene changes are needed but the locations are quickly communicated with the minimum of props and fuss. Young Pip now narrates as Pip suffers.
The authenticity of the costumes helps to define the class system and Joe’s “hat business” is delightful. Stage management could be tighter and the lighting, which so helped the transitions in the first half, sometimes missed the faces later on, but to be fair this was in the dress rehearsal I was watching.
Pip (Toby Marlow) and Estella (Sally Rowlandson) reveal their developing emotions, while Miss Havisham (Janice Selkirk) rules their fates, and her tone of voice is exactly right.
Her death is a masterly scene, as is the backdrop to the boat on the Thames estuary — it’s amazing how much can be done on our little stage.
* Great Expectations continues at the Kenton Theatre until tomorrow (Saturday). For tickets call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kenton theatre.co.uk