Great Expectations

12 Nov

Dickens was one of the great critics of nineteenth century capitalism.

But he goes in and out of fashion. For some, his characterization is too broad, his plots too neat, and his passions too sentimental. But I pray that his message – and, yes, like any writer worth their salt, he had one – never goes out of fashion.

Loudly and clearly, Dickens said cruelty was wrong. If that seems self evident to us, we have writers like him to thank.

In Great Expectations, Dickens explored one of the more subtle forms of cruelty that capitalism engenders. Capitalism broke down many of the old class structures. In itself, this was a good thing. But its dark side was that it gave rise to a new contempt for those at the bottom of the social pyramid. If society is freer then the lower orders have only themselves to blame for their misfortune.

In a wonderful piece of irony the main character, Pip, through no effort of his own, finds himself the heir to a fortune. And it’s through the lens of his great expectations that he then views his friends and family. His embarrassment at his step father Jo, the village blacksmith and the most gentle and caring of men, provides some of the most painful pages in English literature.

Nick Ormerod and Declan Donnellan’s stage adaption of the novel captures the power of the original.

And this production by bAKEHOUSE Theatre is fast paced, funny and very moving. Director John Harrison marshals a terrific cast and brings this magnificent story to life.

At uni, I was made to read Great Expectations twice. At 19 I was left cold. At 22 I thought it the funniest book I’d ever read, and one of the saddest.

This production is utterly accessible and a great introduction to a literary giant who saw further than many of his contemporaries.

May we all be blessed with his vision.

Veronica Kaye

Great Expectations

ATYP til 17 Nov

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