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Great Expectations

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 18th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

Jack Ellis (Jaggers), Taylor Jay-Davies (Young Pip) and Steve North (Joe) in GREAT EXPECTATIONS credit Alastair Muir.jpg

Great Expectations – Darlington Civic Theatre

The publicity material for Jo Clifford’s adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations promised a ‘lavish, spectacular and unashamedly theatrical show (which) brings some of the most memorable characters ever created to life’.

Most theatre critics are accustomed to such hyperbole and we disregard it with the proverbial pinch of salt. However, it is only in the rarest of cases that such tag-lines can genuinely be considered as understatements. This production of Great Expectations is a case in point.

From the moment the curtain rose to reveal Robin Peoples’ magnificent set, I was certain we were in for something special. Indeed, the production values throughout the show were never anything less than utterly outstanding and the creative team are to be congratulated and commended for such perfection. The stunning combination of costume, jewellery, make-up, millinery, wigs and masks all resulted in an exquisite show that was altogether more ambitious than any other adaptation of a period piece that I can think of.

Gloriously gothic, deliciously dark and, at times, marvellously macabre, there was a tone and style to the piece that would not have been out of place in one of Tim Burton’s movies.

The stellar cast performed their roles with undisputed conviction and believability. Paula Wilcox presented the most sympathetic portrayal of Miss Havisham I have ever been fortunate enough to witness, whilst Jack Ellis was an imposing and impressive Jaggers. Chris Ellison’s performance as Magwitch was superbly understated, and Taylor Jay-Davies was perfect as Pip, skilfully and completely believably, developing from boy to man before our very eyes.

Staged as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Charles Dickens, this adaptation visits Darlington prior to its West End transfer. It is a production that I would urge people to see because, quite frankly, in all likelihood it may be another two hundred years before an adaptation of such quality as this is produced.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs until Saturday 20th October 2012.





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