REVIEW: Great Expectations, Mercury Theatre Colchester ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Great Expectations at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.

Mercury Theatre Colchester
Bessy Ewa and Stanton Wright. Photo: Pamela Raith

Great Expectations.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
18 May 2023
4 Stars
Book Tickets

A recent article in The Guardian put Great Expectations at the top of a list of Dickens’s works that never need to be seen again. Many Dickens fans may agree with that after the backlash against the recent BBC TV “Peaky Expectations” version. But Dickens purists need not fear this adaptation, condensing the huge novel into a brisk two hours, inventively and energetically directed by Ryan McBryde. The star of the show is the set design, beautifully fluid and revealing constant surprises and revelations right throughout the production, a triumph by Libby Todd. It provides almost a pop up version of the book, a canvas for the company to play on.

Great Expectations
Jim Fish, Emily Pollet, Stanton Wright, and Sam Lupton. Photo: Pamela Raith

A cast of six bring the novel to life, with Stanton Wright convincing as Pip from childhood into adulthood and maturity. The remaining parts are all played by the five narrators, changing characters in the blink of an eye, with some outstanding performances. They all have at least one stand-out character, Gareth Kennerley a wonderfully threatening Magwitch, handling the reversal of character and melodrama perfectly, Sam Lupton an outstanding and engaging Hebert Pocket, Jim Fish a strong, authoritative, and humane Mr Jaggers, Emily Pollet a superbly haunting Miss Havisham, and Bessy Ewa is a snooty, but ultimately winning Estella. The unlikely coincidences and plot twists are the kind we now see every day on soap operas, and the cast carry them out with conviction and aplomb.

Great Expectations
Stanton Wright, Sam Lupton, and Jim Fish. Photo: Pamela Raith

With so many characters and plot, Gale Childs Daily’s adaptation is exposition heavy, especially in the first half when a whole cast of characters, some fleetingly, are introduced and dispatched, and more could be shown rather than told. But it settles down into a more focused second act, which concentrates on the main protagonists, and has some powerful and beautiful movement by Chihiro Kawasaki, and a gorgeous soundtrack by Stefan Janik adds to the atmosphere without ever distracting. Your expectations will be met!

Mercury Theatre Colchester until 27 May 2023

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