A new stage adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations opened at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre on 6 February 2013. Reprising their roles from the play's recent, successful UK tour, Jack Ellis stars as Jaggers, Chris Ellison as Magwitch and Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham. The cast of 14 also includes Paul Nivison as Adult Pip, Grace Rowe as Estella and Taylor Jay-Davies as Young Pip.
Director and co-designer of Great Expectations is Graham McLaren, who established Theatre Babel and is an Associate Director for The National Theatre of Scotland.
The play recounts the story of a poor lad called Pip Gargery and his entanglement with embittered and reclusive Miss Havisham en route to wealth and status, and is perhaps the best loved Dickens tale of all.
Dickens' masterwork has been adapted for the stage by Jo Clifford, one of Scotland's leading playwrights. She is the author of approximately 80 plays and her work has been translated into several languages and produced throughout the world.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: Taylor Jay-Davies makes a lively, eager Young Pip, while Chris Ellison is a slightly underpowered Magwitch, James Vaughan a vivid, theatrical Wopsle (and a lovely Wemmick, too) and Rhys Warrington a bright-eyed Pocket who dances along Miss Havisham's mantelpiece like a festive fairy. The adaptation by Scottish playwright Jo Clifford (first made thirty years ago) is a model of its kind, but it does suffer from sacrificing narrative pressure and clarity, and true Dickensian sentiment, for a different kind of potpourri "European" style.
Paul Taylor of the Independent says: Social subtlety is ruled out (the sequence where Herbert Pocket coaches Pip in deportment and the correct way to use a spoon, while reclining way above him on the mantelpiece is a particularly showy and unfunny clunker) as is the emotional nuance needed for the encounters with Joe and with Magwitch where our hero's snobbery painfully gets in the way. And the relationship between the two Pips remains stubbornly inert in this bold but crudely executed new vision of the material.
Lyn Gardner of the Guardian states: There are some good ideas, with the story framed as a memory play in which a middle-aged Pip observes his younger self through the cobwebs of time. It's clever, too, to set the entire show within Miss Havisham's crumbling drawing room, where worryingly vocal mice and the rotting wedding cake constantly remind you that this is a story not just of Great Expectations, but also destroyed illusions and lingering disappointments. McLaren takes it further by hinting that we all perform in life as if on stage, and he offers some of Dickens' larger-than-life characters as a series of white-faced grotesque turns. Nonetheless, it still feels unsatisfyingly like Dickens-lite - a headlong rush through the major chapters of the story without the emotional ballast required to give it meaning. Taylor Jay-Davies' Young Pip is oddly unsympathetic, and the memory-play element is underplayed, so we never get a dialogue between past and present, nor glimpse the emotional fatigue and endurance of the older Pip (Paul Nivison), who had so much within his grasp, and lost it.