REVIEW: Great Expectations at South Hill Park

Sally Gray

REVIEW: Great Expectations at South Hill Park

I’m sorry if you missed South Hill Park’s autumn production of Great Expectations (Wednesday, October 23 – Sunday, October 27), both my daughter and I were engrossed from start to finish. We talked about it all the way home – how the story still reflects issues of today; the class system, how we treat criminals, unrequited love, our focus on money etc. And how clever and unique Charles Dickens was is creating such marvellously interesting, eccentric characters.

This adaptation by Neil Bartlett tells the story through the eyes of the protagonist Pip, who is a young man striving to improve his lifestyle, hungry for fame and fortune and desperately and hopelessly in love with someone who doesn’t love him.

He starts the production in his thirties, and then ‘jumps back in time’ to when he was aged seven. Throughout the play we see him aged 14, 18 and 21 before he returns to his thirties. The play is performed by a relatively small company of 16, but with only 10 principals. The play involves a lot of multi-rolling, with some actors playing three main roles. I thought Heather Wilson who played the nasty Mrs Joe and Jaggers’ assistant was extremely good.

As well as jumps in time, there are also many jumps in location throughout the play, a challenge which the designer, Victoria Spearing and Joe Malyan, director, I thought, coped with extremely well. The use of umbrellas to create changes in time and place was inspired.

This was my first visit to South Hill Park and I was very impressed. Although I arrived in the dark, I could see a lovely terrace overlooking the grounds that would be a lovely place to sit for a pre-show drink in the summer and the building itself is Grade II listed. (There is a newly published book which tells you all about the history of South Hill Park with proceeds going to the upkeep of the centre which will definitely be worth a read).
I hope to be making my second visit very soon.

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