Expectations well met in Dickens of a show at Theatre Royal

The Gothic drama and anguish of Dickens' Great Expectations was delivered powerfully in Jo Stafford's well judged adaptation at Brighton's Theatre Royal last night.

It was an eerie night's entertainment that left you with more questions than answers, as Dickens' grotesque characters wrestled their way through a period piece that challenged, chilled and chastened in equal measure.

How much are we products of our upbringing? How free are our choices to make a life for ourselves? Where can redemption be found? And can an amoral life be redeemed by the desire to do one good act, leave one good legacy?

There were stellar performances all through the cast, from the wailing and decaying wedding dress festooned Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham (right), the scheming and lascivious James Vaughan as Worple, the plucky young Pip played by Taylor Jay-Davies, Chris Ellison's elusive Magwitch and the abrupt and deliberate lawyer Jaggers (Jack Ellis).

Great support work came from Steve North as Joe Gargery, Isabelle Joss as his shrill and abusive wife Mrs Joe, veteran character actor Brian Pettifer as Wemmick and Grace Rowe (below) as the damned and beautiful heart-breaker Estella.

The cobweb strewn set was masterfully done, veering from the dusty horror of Miss Havisham's to the warm cosiness of the forge, and the bustling anonymity of London. And I loved the creaking, whistling, spooky sound collage that provided an effective undertow for proceedings.

Whether you've read the book or not, go and see it – your expectations will be well rewarded.

Russ Bravo

BOOKING INFO

Great Expectations runs until Saturday (6 October).
For more information, visit www.greatexpectationstheplay.com.
Box Office 0844 871 7650 (bkg fee) www.atgtickets.com/brighton Ticket prices £10 - £29.50

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