Great Expectations

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Previewed 1 February 2013, Opened 6 February 2013, Closed 30 March 2013 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London

A major stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in London starring Paula Wilcox, Jack Ellis and Chris Ellison and directed by Graham McLaren.

This lavish, spectacular and unashamedly theatrical show brings some of the most memorable characters ever created to life. The beautiful, chilling Estella, the terrifying convict Magwitch, the manipulative lawyer Jaggers, the tragic, mysterious Miss Havisham and Pip with his 'great expectations'. This production comes into London's West End following a successful two month regional tour in the autumn 2012.

The 14 strong cast for this World Premiere stage production of Great Expectations in London features Paula Wilcox as 'Miss Havisham', Jack Ellis as 'Jaggers' and Chris Ellison as 'Magwitch' along with Paul Nivison as 'Adult Pip', Grace Rowe as 'Estella' and Taylor Jay-Davies as 'Young Pip'. Based on the novel by Charles Dickens and adapted for the stage by Jo Clifford, this production is directed by Graham McLaren with sets by Robin Peoples, costumes by Annie Gosney, Graham McLaren and Giovanni Bedin, lighting by Kai Fischer, original music by Simon Slater and sound by Matt McKenzie. Paula Wilcox's London theatre credits include Sue Townsend's The Queen and I at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1994.

"The novel, one of Dickens's strangest and darkest, has never been staged as a full-length play in the West End or on Broadway. What is so admirable about Jo Clifford's version, after years of workshops, is that it decisively shrugs off the many screen adaptations to make something that is pure theatre. Without timidity or hesitation, under Graham McLaren's inventive, physical, impressionistic direction, its two sharp one-hour acts honour both the playful demands of living theatre and the themes of the book... The heart is there and the culmination thrilling: fire and fog, grief and anger and regret. And no truck with that soupy, artificial happy ending Edward Bulwer-Lytton made Dickens stick on." The Times

"Set in the house of the superbly unhinged Miss Havisham, played by Paula Wilcox, the story is told through flashbacks from Paul Nivison's Pip. The standout performances here though come from James Vaughan, whose Wopsle is a hilarious treat, and Jack Ellis, who is superbly sinister as Jaggers. This great story is really brought to life on the stage and is a must-see for fans of the theatre and lovers of Dickens alike." The Sunday Mirror

"Graham McLaren's production is a resounding success, almost despite itself, and, while it occasionally has, at best, a nodding acquaintance with the novel, it manages to communicate, in two hours and 20 minutes, its spirit and humanity. More importantly, it works as a stand-alone piece of drama. Acted out in a rather old-fashioned Grand Guignol style, it is imbued with an eerie and fantastical atmosphere that, while anachronistic in modern theatreland, is strangely compelling... As for young Pip, he is so heavily mascaraed and coiffed that he could all too easily have been Helena Bonham Carter. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Taylor Jay-Davies, in this pivotal role, is an actor of extraordinary power, who is more than capable of holding the piece together and involving the audience in the story of his coming of age... McLaren deserves credit for giving his audience a surprising amount of larks. It is, however, Jay-Davies's night. A star has undoubtedly been born." The Sunday Telegraph

"The single good idea is to stage the whole thing on Robin Peoples' atmospheric Gothic set for Miss Havisham's once very grand, now dilapidated dining room, where time stood still when she was jilted on her wedding day. Cobwebs cling to everything, including her mouldering wedding cake, but especially to Pip's suit. Characters make entrances through holes in the crumbling panels, from down the chimney or from under the grubby tablecloth. Director Graham McLaren's intention is to make everything highly theatrical. So Dickens's precisely drawn creations have here become ill-defined, exaggerated grotesques with spectral faces, bad Pocahontas make-up and black nail varnish... Far too little has survived of the story, which will leave many wondering what the Dickens is going on. Inevitably some characters have vanished altogether... Paula Wilcox's deranged and damaged Miss Havisham fails to chill... Lower all expectations." The Mail on Sunday

Paula Wilcox says of Miss Haversham, which she plays in this production, that "she's had a rather terrible life. She got jilted at the alter and has never forgiven man as a gender, and has been wreaking her revenge ever since. She's a real mixed-up contrary bag of tricks, and what I find phenomenal about her is that it' not just a great anger, but a great sadness that's made her such an evil person. Part of her problem is that she's so incredibly wealthy. So, unlike most people who have to get a job, which might help them get over things, she's never had to, so she's had all this time to indulge her mad desires in this really self-indulgent fashion. This results in the tragedy of what's happened to them all. As Estella says, they're all beaten and broken... The script is very clear. Jo Clifford's jettisoned a lot of characters and sub-plots, and focuses on the main story, from when Pip meets Estella and dreams of becoming a gentleman. Whenever I say to anybody I'm doing Dickens on tour, that doesn't sound too exciting, to be frank, but the way it's done, as a memory play, with all these stage effects and music and lighting, that's much more attractive and terribly exciting to do."

"Even before the cast arrive on stage, Robin Peoples' stunning set immediately propels the audience into the action as they gaze at the cobweb-festooned living room in the home of wealthy and eccentric Miss Havisham who, years after being jilted, still wears her faded wedding dress. Then the extraordinary range of characters start to appear, sometimes hopping on to the table where her crumbling wedding cake stands, occasionally speaking from atop other pieces of furniture and even, in one case, strolling along the huge mantelpiece. Sounds bizarre, but it works. Paula Wilcox impresses as Miss Havisham. A superb performance, too, from Taylor Jay-Davies as young orphan Pip, wrongly believing Miss Havisham is his benefactor when he becomes a gentleman hoping to win the love of Estella (Grace Rowe)." The Birmingham Mail - from the run at New Alexandra Theatre from 9 to 13 October 2012

Great Expectations in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 1 February 2013, opened on 6 February 2013 and closed on 30 March 2013 (originally scheduled to close on 1 June 2013).