Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Theatre review: Miss Havisham's Expectations (Dickens With a Difference #1)



Growing up outside of the UK I've always been a lover of the stereotypical Dickens London at Christmas time in all its forms, from the source material in book form to the endless amount of cinematic and theatrical adaptations. And so I was excited when an invite arrived in my digital inbox to Dickens With a Difference at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, promising to give me my Dickens fix with two one-act plays based on some of the author's most famous novels; Great Expectations and Oliver Twist.

The first of the two plays in this double bill was Miss Havisham's Expectations, focusing on the well-known but often side-lined character of Miss Havisham from, you guessed it, Great Expectations. The play had a fascinating start as Linda Marlowe (most recently seen in the West End in the Donmar's critically acclaimed Coriolanus), who played both Miss Havisham and narrated the play, analysed the women in Charles Dickens' life and compared this to how he portrayed female characters within his novels.

As a self-proclaimed Dickens geek, I found this an interesting introduction to the evening. However, as we kept flicking back and forth between Dickens analysis and the actual story of Miss Havisham, it unfortunately became a tiring and sometimes even confusing method of telling the story.

This feeling of bewilderment was heightened by seemingly random inclusions of magic tricks and even a performance of the can-can. I suppose it did add to the characterisation of Miss Havisham, she is perceived a being absolutely bonkers after all, but it didn't seem to add anything to the play itself - and that should be the most important consideration.

While Miss Havisham's Expectations started off promising, through its 60-minute duration it digressed until the point where it forgot what it was trying to tell or achieve. The at times over-dramatic performance and the misjudged breaking of the fourth wall didn't help matters. It was okay in providing a unique insight into a famous Dickens character, but unless you're a really keen Great Expectations fan, it probably won't hold your interest for the entire hour.




Miss Havisham's Expectations is playing at the Trafalgar Studios in London until 3 January 2015. Buy tickets here.

Also running at the same theatre as part of double bill Dickens With a Difference is the mesmerising Sikes and Nancy. Read my 4-star review here.


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