Miss Havisham’s Expectations at Trafalgar Studios
Miss Havisham’s Expectations is an ambitious retelling of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, and it just about pulls it off.
Linda Marlowe’s new one-woman show, ably written and directed by Di Sherlock, explores the literary classic through the eyes of the titular Miss Havisham, but it doesn’t stop with Great Expectations. Other characters weave in and out of this intertextual masterpiece, from Bill Sikes to Alfred Lord Tennyson – and even Dickens himself.
The show occupies an odd space, with the fourth wall broken early on and the character of Miss Havisham aware she is a creation of “Sir Dick”, as she calls him, but still able to exercise control over her own life. This could be confusing or unsatisfying, but the balance is just right. Not too much is explained, not too much is hidden, and Marlowe simply invites the audience along for the ride – a request with which they willingly comply.
There are laughs aplenty, with Marlowe’s often-cynical, candid and chaotic interpretation of Havisham making the perfect comic vessel – but there are also moments of true poignancy. Havisham dancing with the empty dress of her adopted daughter, Estella, or realising the error of her ways too late, with the help of the excellent sound and lighting, create an atmosphere even the most stony-hearted of theatregoers would succumb to.
Bizarrely though, the otherwise smooth flow of the show is repeatedly interrupted by cheap parlour tricks, crowbarred in through the tenuous link that Dickens was also an amateur magician. That may be so, but these conjuring tricks feel awkwardly out of place in such a well-constructed piece. They are hackneyed illusions, they have very little relevance to the rest of the play and, whilst Linda Marlowe is an established actress, she is not a great magician. This, coupled with the fact that Marlowe’s acting sometimes strays into the hammy and melodramatic, prevents the piece from being truly absorbing, but it is still a fascinating and innovative hour of theatre. Far from the one-dimensional portrayals often found on stage and screen, this is a version of Miss Havisham the audience can really get their teeth into.
Photos: Steve Ullathorne
Miss Havisham’s Expectations is on at Trafalgar Studios until 3rd January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.