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Though drastically cut to just over two hours actual playing time by adaptor Jo Clifford, this stage version of Charles Dickens’ lengthy 1860’s novel still takes an awfully long time to generate dramatic momentum.

Robin Peoples’ cobweb-draped, Gothic set - dominated by a huge mirror through which scenes from the past briefly become visible and with a decaying wedding cake centre stage - perfectly evokes the neglected gloom of Satis House where Miss Havisham (Paula Wilcox in tattered bridal gown) first summons young orphan Pip to play with her adopted daughter Estella.

But atmospheric though it is, the single set can’t encompass the breadth of Dickens’ world - Pip’s graveyard encounter with escaped criminal Magwitch wouldn’t scare a kitten, and Herbert Pocket prancing about on the mantelpiece as he instructs Pip on gentlemanly deportment is definitely a mistake.

With characters, white-faced and ghostly, emerging from the shadows and poking through the furniture, much of the acting is too broad to make you care as Adult Pip (as onlooker) remembers his past.  

Apparently it’s the first time the novel has been staged in the West End, but, although it delivers the bare bones of the narrative, only rarely is there the sense of real people with real lives and emotions in Graham McLaren’s workmanlike production.

Vaudeville, Strand WC2R 0NH
Tube | Charing Cross
Until 1st June 
£25 - £55.00


Great Expectations theatre review: Vaudeville Theatre, London
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