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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens
(Adapted by Neil Bartlett)
19 - 22 October 2008

Great Expectations poster

Young Estella : Hannah Adenay
Abel Magwitch : Jeremy Austin
Mr Wopsle :Barry Baynton
The Aged Parent :Joe Brooks
Military Sergeant : Chris Brown
Pip : Rob Cording
Pocket : Jackson Ellen
Pocket : Jan Stevenson
Pocket : Chrissie Neal
Joe Gargery : Mark Ellen
Pip (as a boy) : Conor Feltham
Wemmick : Stuart Glossop
Herbert Pocket : Nick Grey
Mrs Joe : Carolyn Hewitt
Jaggers : Richard Neal
Biddy : Tracey Nicholls
Miss Havisham : Penny Pearson
Estella : Michaela Slatford
Bentley Drummle : Colin Pile
Uncle Pumblechook : Michael Smith
Herbert (as a boy) : Eddie Tyson-Brown

Director : Paul Dodman

Set Designer : Jackson Ellen

THIS adaptation by Neil Bartlett of Dickens’ novel was originally conceived as a piece for just eight actors. Wimborne Drama’s production, superbly and imaginatively directed by Paul Dodman, uses twenty-one – and every one of them brings the author’s richly drawn characters to vibrant and colourful life.

Using a combination of film and graphic sequences as well as on-stage settings, the many and varied locations of the story are well-depicted, moving easily between one and another and enhanced by fine lighting. I did feel though that the occasional sound effects rather detracted from the dialogue without actually adding anything in the way of atmosphere.

The well-costumed cast, without exception, is outstanding, from the youngest – Conor Feltham (young Pip), Hannah Adeney (young Estella) and Eddie Tyson-Brown (young Herbert) to the seasoned performers, and even the smallest roles are played with real style.

Rob Cording strikes just the right note as Pip, and there are particularly memorable characterisations too from Michael Smith (Uncle Pumblechook), Penny Pearson (Miss Havisham), Nick Gray (Herbert Pocket), Stuart Glossop (Wemmick), Jeremy Austin (Abel Magwitch), Mark Ellen (Joe Gargery), Carolyn Hewitt (Mrs Joe), Richard Neal (Jaggers), Michaela Slatford (Estella) and Tracey Nicholls (Biddy).

Linda Kirkman, Bournemouth Evening Echo

Director Paul Dodman made a bold decision when he took on the task of bringing Great Expectations, the Charles Dickens classic so beloved of generations of readers and film-goers, to the stage of the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne. Using a new adaptation of the story and the talents of Wimborne Drama members – plus filmed inserts – the gamble paid off, however, and this tale of Victorian values, ambitions, suffering and snobbery was brought vividly to life.

The orphaned Pip (played with great composure by Conor Feltham) appears first as a boy of 11 with the windswept backdrop of a bleak churchyard in the Kentish marshlands. That sets the scene and when Rob Cording – a faultless portrayal of the older Pip – takes up the narration of the story it moves on effortlessly. We meet older sister Mrs Joe, forcefully pictured by Carolyn Hewitt, and the blacksmith Joe Gargery (Mark Ellen is convincingly kind and gentle) in their modest home.

The boy Pip encounters escaped convict Abel Magwitch – a competent performance by Jeremy Austin - and also young Estella (another promising appearance by a youthful actor Hannah Adeney) and both will be hugely important in his life.

He meets the embittered and reclusive Miss Havisham, sensitively played by Penny Pearson, in the darkened Satis House and the seeds of longing for her riches, social position and beautiful ward Estella are sown in his heart.

Mr Pumblechook and Mr Wopsle (wonderfully Dickensian portrayals by Michael Smith and Barry Baynton) seek to push Pip up the social ladder while bullying lawyer Jaggers (splendidly depicted by Richard Neal) holds the purse strings when the young man moves to London.

Pip’s life in lodgings with Herbert Pocket – well played by Nick Gray and also by Eddie Tyson-Brown as a boy – then moves on until his pivotal meeting with Estella (a suitably hard-faced and manipulative Michaela Slatford) when he faces the fact that all his great expectations have come to nothing.

While applauding the first-class split set, this production was so enhanced by the use of projected images. They enriched the story-line, kept the continuity moving and added atmosphere. The fire which brought the demise of Miss Havisham was so realistic it sent a shiver down my spine.

Costumes too were effective – the gowns worn by the Misses Pocket brought welcome colour and movement to the action – but, though the jilted Miss H was pale and wan, she did look rather young. After such anguish and the character ageing as the story unfolded, perhaps a more lined face would have been appropriate.

A minor point, however, and congratulations must go to the whole company, on and off stage for rising to the challenge. The result certainly exceeded my expectations. PS

PS, Stour and Avon Magazine

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