Great Expectations

Zack Fox saw Great Expectations at the Cineworld in Nottingham as the live West End performance was broadcast across the world.

Cineworld Dickens film Great Expectations Nottingham Theatre Zack Fox

Is there any point in introducing Great Expectations? It is a text so timelessly entrenched within the cultural zeitgeist as to compose a defining part of our humble country’s cultural sun.


The story of orphan boy Pip and his shady, fortuitous rise to gentlemanly prominence is one earmarked on the timeline of the vast majority of the British public, either through schooling or one of the countless multi-media adaptations.


While having appeared on stage before, Graham McLaren’s depiction is the first time this literary behemoth has hit the peerless West End.


On the strength of this performance, it is safe to say that Great Expectations has always belonged there.


Far removed from the misty drudgery of Victorian England so often synonymous with adaptations of Dickens, McLaren has opted for a Baroque gothic aesthetic, the meticulously designed and utterly convincing multi-purpose set feeling like something torn directly from Tim Burton’s latest feature film.


The acting, on the most part, is superb. Jack Ellis and James Vaughan, as Jaggers and Wopsle respectively, hit a ceaselessly entertaining mix of subtle malevolence and outright gleeful campiness.


However, it is unfortunate that some characters are simply too Dickensian. The literary maestro is famous for perfectly conceived and utterly memorable creations but in some instances, Isabelle Ross as Mrs. Joe for example, mannerisms and dialogue feel caricatured to the point of pantomime.The script too, while largely faultlessly engaging and masterfully interpreted by the cast, is seemingly devoid of subtext; the grander themes at work – class, love, friendship – are handled with the care of a clown at Christmas. Though arguably a by-product of condensing a novel into a two-hour play – an achievement for which writer Jo Clifford deserves endless admiration – such opaqueness can often jar.


Ultimately it is the music that best summarises Great Expectations. A pleasurably juxtaposing mix of eerie strings and plucky percussion, it compliments and completes a stylistically superlative, riotously entertaining piece of pure theatre.


 To find out more about live events shown at cineworld go to their website or alternatively check out 10 Things To Do This Week