Could the director – the excellent Andrew Pearson – and the adaptor – Vincent Regan– pull off condensing Dickens’ 566 page novel (OUP edition) into two and a half hours of theatre?
The answer is, yes indeed.
They did it by using a versatile cast and seamlessly integrating starry names like Stephen Frost, Magwitch, and David Schaal, Pumblechook/Jaggers.
Then, they made the most of the small stage and taxed the set to its limit.
Doors opened for Joe Gargery’s smithie; then Miss Havisham’s house; Jaggers’s office and all the other locations we associate with the great novel.
Finally, and most significantly, they selected scenes that gave a pace and clarity to the action, riveting those unfamiliar with Pip’s progress, while still surprising those intimate with it since school days. Fourteen year Joel Walker as the Young Pip holds his own against some highly accomplished professionals and morphed into his older self merely by transferring his red scarf to the neck of Tom McNulty.
His portrayal of the hero, tormented by Laura Peterson’s callous Estella, is assured and convincing.
East Riding favourite Freddie Wride is an engaging Herbert Pocket.
Janet Prince, as the sinister Miss Havisham, wearing a wedding dress that looks like the cellophane has just come off, is immolated in spectacular fashion in the fire scene but Stephen Frost’s comic timing, as he recount his life of crime, is worth the price of the ticket on its own.
Great Expectations runs at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, until Saturday January 7.
Performances daily at daily at 7.30pm plus matiness at 2pm on December 27, 29, 31 and January 7.
Tickets: 01482 874050.