REVIEW: Great Expectations

Robyn Bellinger saw huge potential in Great Expectations but felt the energy was lacking.

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Great Expectations, the story of a ‘common boy with coarse hands’ on a quest to become a gentleman is one of Dickens’ best-known novels and the Pembroke Players’ interpretation of it was exciting—for a while.

Image Credit: Hannah Taylor

Though the actors’ were, for the most part, good, the performance seemed interminable. While two hours and fifteen minutes may not seem to be overly long—the duration of the performance, combined with a low amount of energy from those who were onstage, made audience members somewhat impatient to leave. A long performance isn’t an issue but you need to keep up energy.

Design elements of the performance were intriguing as the Pembroke Players utilised the classic technique of Theatre in the Round where the audience sits in a circle and the actors perform inside, all whilst making sure everyone sees at least some of the performance (which they did well!). When not in the circle, the cast remained in sight and took turns as chorus members. Through this, Pip’s often long monologues were split up which kept things reasonably exciting because you couldn’t tell who might deliver the next line—a good decision by Director Kenneth McHardy.

George Booth-Clibborn. (Photo Credit: Georgina Wong)

George Booth-Clibborn, who played Pip, was exceedingly good. Though he was onstage for the majority of the performance, he managed to maintain a high degree of focus. His ability to develop his character was outstanding; as the story moved from Pip’s childhood to his adult life, Booth-Clibborn ably managed the transition by distinguishing an older Pip from a younger one while also maintaining clear links between the two. Booth-Clibborn also demonstrated an excellent range of emotions; watching him perform was truly enjoyable because there was no negative predictability. A highlight was the fight scene between Booth-Clibborn’s Pip and Natalie Reeve playing Pip’s best friend, Herbert.

We also had a very strong performance from Xelia Mendes-Jones as Miss Havisham: her physical control was astonishingly good, and which led to a very accurate portrayal. Though countless interpretations of Miss Havisham have graced both the stage and televisions, Mendes-Jones was able to put a unique stamp on the character, providing a recognizable yet fresh interpretation of a well-known character. She, like Booth-Clibborn, demonstrated an impressive range of emotions which helped keep the plot dynamic. Miss Havisham’s argument with Estella (Clara Strandhoj) was a particularly good scene.

Clara Strandhoj. (Photo Credit: Georgina Wong)

Most of the other actors gave good performances as well, which made the overall rather lacklustre performance all the more disappointing—it has such good potential, but the actors need to keep up the energy. A performance without energy is hard for other actors to perform with, but also hard for the audience to watch.

Though Great Expectations had a lot of potential and moments of outstanding acting, the performance as a whole lacked the energy needed to maintain an audience’s attention for the duration of the play.  

3/5 stars