We’re transported to the roaring 20s in this fresh modern art deco twist of a Charles Dickens timeless classic. Directed and produced by Yvette Owen, this labour of love grasps the opportunity to be playful and creative in its presentation.
Great Expectations, like most Dickensian stories, still resonate today with many adaptations through the ages. Themes include love, heartbreak, class politics and identity and this famous story doesn’t call for further expedition as there is already plenty to talk about in this multi-faceted offering from the Frodsham Players.
Featuring a cast of over 30 including a four-piece band and a chorus of singers, this self-assured ensemble gave solid performances, evidently relishing every moment. The shift between the younger versions of Pip, played delightfully by Joseph Tomlinson and Estella, portrayed with a perfect touch of sass by Chloe Hardwick, to the older Pip, strongly played by Dan Aynsely and Estella, with a touching performance from Sadie Dixon, worked really well with a seamless transition due to their characterisations of each role. Under Owen’s competent direction, the delivery and chemistry between the various different scene partners was wonderful to watch. Pips development from northern lad to city gent is brought to life well by Aynsely, complimented by his change in dress, demeanour and accent. The one thing missing though was a side slick to the hair which would have topped off the 1920s rich gent’s style. Miss Havisham, one of the most disconsolate legendary figures, was delivered well by Carole Shinkfield, successfully showing the steely, emotionless presence of this solitary figure. Further emphasis on Miss Havisham’s entrance would have been welcomed with maybe a dim light depicting the two candelabras which form part of the set (also an indication of Havisham’s fate, which unfortunately was told and not shown) and would have nicely reflected the vast, empty, loveless home where she mourns.
Kudos goes to Owens and the stage production team who use lighting, soundscapes and scenery/props, moving us along nicely through the narrative, adequately adapted by Owens. Most scenes are pre-set at the foot of the stage, with the isolated Havisham’s Satis House set upon the stage with the different levels nicely reflecting the variances in status. Vines adorn either side of the central staircase giving the impression of the outside of the property. A note on transitions; choices around entrances, exits and movements around the set could be slightly adjusted to continue the general good pacing of the scenes and make them more integral to the presentation of the story. Short interludes of 20s inspired music from the live band during the transitions would have been a lovely addition, with more harmonies as per the opening scene which was visually and audibly striking.
Moving the action from the mid-19th century to post-World War 1, the 1920s was a progressive time in terms of women’s liberation and attitudes which saw a denial of social norms, a new sense of freedom, reflected in the fashion. A concept which worked well in tandem with how Dicken’s female characters rebel against Victorian patriarchal norms by defying their nurturing, supporting roles and instead prove challenging and disparaging towards the men. The costumes were impressive with attention to detail regarding the fashion of the time, including a vibrant pallet of greens, whites, blacks, Miss Havisham’s gothic style wedding dress to the visually appealing coat and matching cloche hat worn by Clara (played by a sparkling Felicity Parry).
The ending was beautiful and emotional, ending on a satisfying tableau. Tony Boyd-Williams as ‘old Pip’, the narrator of this story, was just lovely to watch, bringing the whole piece together as he recalls a moment with the love of his life Estella, bringing the audience to an emotional crescendo.
The Frodsham Players truly deliver under the dynamic direction and vision of Owens. Proof that community theatre can pack a passionate punch which is not to be missed. Support local theatre and grab yourself a ticket.
Great Expectations runs until 1st April with limited tickets available, catch it while you can, https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/frodsham/frodsham-community-centre/great-expectations/e-qzggym
Reviewer: Gill Lewis
Reviewed: 29th March 2023 North West End UK Rating: ★★★★