Young orphaned Pip (Jake Dixon) stumbles across escaped convict Able Magwitch (Angus Brown) in the marshland, close to the home that he shares with simple and unassuming Joe (Dan Pegler) and his splenetic wife (Lexi Greenall). This chance encounter is the first link in a chain of unlikely events which sees Pip catapulted from his uneventful and modest life as an apprentice blacksmith into the convolution and intrigue of London high society. Pip’s journey from marsh to money is aided by a host of interesting characters; the eccentric dowager Miss Havisham (Andrea Miller), exhausting and animated Herbert Pocket (Evan Pardoe-Matthews), cool, calm and collected lawyer Jaggers (Simon Hudson) and his loyal and caring associate Wemmick (Alan Durman) and of course the infuriating, haughty and beautiful Estella (Georgina Sockett and Eleanor Bailey).
The chorus and technical team do a wonderful job in creating the dark Dickensian atmosphere with a mixture of moody lighting, fantastically timed fog banks, foreboding soliloquy, and interesting use of sheeting to conjure up the suggestion of ships, courtrooms and carriages.
It’s hard to tell who the professional actors are in this Pro-am production; the amateur cast members really give it their all from beginning to end, working with some difficult language and confusing storylines, bringing the plot twists and turns together in a coherent and brilliant offering.
Miller finds the perfect balance between melancholy and madness as Miss Havisham, and it’s brilliant to see Fletcher Gerrard play grown-up Pip with such blind naïveté and ardour. Greenall is positively terrifying as the discontent Mrs. Joe, and has a huge presence on the stage. I confess I was a little disappointed when she got her eventual comeuppance, as her absence was certainly noticeable.
Special mentions must also be given to the seemingly bottomless costume department, ever energetic Will Hurst for his depiction of dramatic Wopsle, Olivia Gray’s downright mean Pumblechook and Maddy West’s thoughtful portrayal of dowdy but delightful Biddy.
The use of the original Dickensian language and dark themes do make this production somewhat more for adults than young children, but the theatre is physical enough to carry the story along and there’s not too much in the way of physical violence (except for poor young Pip’s numerous clouts about the head). Certainly a great introduction to the tumultuous world of Dickens for older children, and a comfortable classic for those among us who already enjoy the genre.
Great Expectations runs at The Courtyard until Saturday 5th October with tickets priced from £17.00.
Available from www.courtyard.org.uk or Box Office 01432 340555