THE ORNATE Theatre Royal Brighton was the perfect setting for Jo Clifford’s adaptation of Great Expectations.
The stage was turned into the main room of the once grand, but now dilapidated, Satis House, with cobwebs hanging from candelabras and dust covering a decorative mirror.
I was pleased this was not a dramatisation of the entire Dickens novel – more a spotlight on the central characters, with adult Pip, Paul Nivison, remaining on-stage to narrate some of the story, acted out by young Pip – wonderfully played by Taylor Jay-Davies.
Despite the set not changing, the audience was carried through to different places thanks to ingenious lighting and eerie sounds.
And there were all the traditional Dickensian elements you would expect to see – criminals, whimsical gentlemen and mad women, with clever, almost Tim Burton-esque, costumes. Characters would appear and disappear, as if they had blended into the walls, and the mirror was used to conjure up images of the past.
But, it was Paula Wilcox’s Miss Havisham which proved the most haunting part. She moved around in a ghostly fashion, her old tattered wedding dress trailing behind her – but in a perfectly underplayed way. Wilcox could easily have overdone it.
Other notable performances were from Grace Rowe as Estella, whose cutting ‘boy’ insults to Pip were just as I imagined when reading the book as a child, and Jack Ellis as Jaggers, who notifies Pip about his funding from an unknown benefactor.
Adapting a novel of such length into just two hours, while still retaining the intensity of Dickens’ classic tale, proves what an excellent adaptation this is. It’s easy to see why it moves to the West End later in the year.
Great Expectations is at Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday.
For tickets, visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-brighton
By Sarah Dale