Great Expectations, Old Red Lion Theatre

Joshua Asare as Pip in Great Expectations at Old Red Lion.

by guest critic Lara Alier

Re-imagining a classic is a courageous act. Tom Crowley’s adaptation follows the journey of a young man struggling to find his place in modern day England and it’s pervasive class system.

This time we find young Pip living in a council estate with his mother, Jo. Yet his life turns upside down when he meets the hurt Miss Havisham, her daughter Estrella, and Madwycz, a hitman. These characters shape Pip’s ambition and help him to become a successful city worker.

Thanks to the nature of the space, Crowley provides us intimate close-ups of Pip’s relationships and how they change over time. Sarah Thom (Jo) perfectly captures the pain of being slowly forgotten by your child. Then, in a matter of seconds, she puts on a wedding dress to ensnare Pip as Miss Havisham. This exciting versatility is also shown by Maryam Grace, who shifts from a genuine Biddy to a heartless Estrella. Liam Bewley’s mastery of characterization also holds everyone’s attention religiously.

Watching the transitions between scenes is like watching another play, however. Fringe theatre is fascinating, yet there is nothing new in this production. When Pip goes to London, we see another Curious Incident of  the  Dog in the Night-Time moment, with people walking mechanically to show how stressful London is. In spite of the enjoyable music, it is used in an obvious, indicative way. Instead of fully nurturing the piece, it pre-empts moments and imposes emotions.

Even though this piece isn’t challenging or surprising, it’s still a good chance to watch one of the great classics whilst enjoying a glass of wine.

Great Expectations runs through 6 January.

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