Thursday, November 06, 2014


Ingatestone and Fryerning Dramatic Club

As Herbert Pocket might have pointed out to his protégé Pip, it is the custom in London society to wear the waistband somewhat higher …
In Ingatestone's production, directed by Lisa Mathews, Ian Russell makes an affable Pocket, and Sam Robinson-Thorley a believable blacksmith's boy turned gentleman. Strong Dickensian characterizations from David Pitchford as the convict Magwitch, William Wells as put-upon Joe Gargery and Jenny Godwin as an imperious, melodramatic Miss Havisham. Interesting doubling elsewhere, with David Linton playing both Jaggers and his clerk, and Vikki Luck both the women in Pip's affections.
Tim Murphy is Drummle, hardly on stage long enough to register, and the Aged Parent, bizarrely going through a pantomime of physical jerks before subsiding into his armchair.
Satis House and its world of shadows could have benefited from more atmospheric lighting, and the large stage could have been better used. It is effective to have scenes changed, characters metamorphosed, before our eyes; pity not to do it more instead of the tedious blackouts.
And if we can have a young Pip [nicely danced by Cameron Maddock to Rebecca Kerby's Estella] in a weird ballet to Lana del Rey, why not in the iconic graveyard scene ?

1 comment:

Mary Redman said...

Dickens is one of my favourite writers and about the only novelist I can bear to read again and again. Equally, the shock of the scene when Young Pip frighteningly meets the escaped convict Magwitch in David Lean's film, lives on in me.
So this production of Great Expectations came with a long history and great expectations of my own. I was, however, mystified by playwright Hugh Leonard's adaptation which took great liberties with Dickens's work including with dialogue, plot and events.
The answer came in a Guardian obituary and a biography on Wikipedia. Tony Award-winning writer John Keyes Byrne adopted the nom de plume of Hugh Leonard. He was “hailed as the best living Irish dramatist” according to the Guardian in 2009 while Wikipedia described his “adaptations of classic novels for television”.
Jenny Godwin as the frustrated, thwarted, cruel Miss Havisham grew in power and authority while Vikki Luck doubled Estella, her equally cruel ward, with simple village girl Biddy.
Young Sam Robinson-Thorley was a confused grown up Pip mistaking the identity of the true donor of his great expectations - David Pitchford's believable convict Magwitch.
Some very good characterisations and strong performances by William Wells as the heart of gold and full of sympathy for his fellow man Joe Gargery, contrasting well with David Linton's dry-as-dust lawyer Jaggers. However the demands of rapid doubling didn't help Linton as much with Wemmick the legal clerk.
Tim Murphy was notable as Magwitch's sworn enemy and fellow escapee Compeyson (here pronounced Compayson), but what he was doing as The Aged P and Bentley Drummle defies description.
This production, directed by Lisa Matthews, was notable for its constant succession of extremely short scenes highly reminiscent of a television show. Our cast trooped on and off stage again complete with lighting blackouts before getting to centre stage accompanied by noisy prop moving. As audiences we really are not afraid of watching scene changing especially if choreographed and rehearsed.
Cast doubling of many roles also led to confusion for us. There were, though, a couple of really praiseworthy role changes with simple garments on stage, immediately clarifying events and speeding up the production. This device also showed how to avoid blackouts and long walks for entrances etc.
On such a massive stage the director limited events to an upper stage level and on the lower one a single area stage left. Thus further limiting events. Designated areas for Miss Havisham, the Forge, Pip's lodgings, Jaggers's chambers and Wemmick's “castle” would have opened things up enormously for us.

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