As if reducing Dickens to 90 minutes wasn’t enough of a mean feat, this production of Great Expectations is bravely performed as a musical.
An indisputable synergy from the cast is apparent from the initial fiery number, and the weaving polyphonies from John Moore’s score enrich the rabbit-warren of a plot that we are to expect. The tight harmonies and instrumentalists are clearly well rehearsed, made more impressive by the fact that the live band are unable to visually connect with the actors. While rehearsing to perfection may tempt a lack of consistent vivacity, all faces shine with a charming ardour, enthusiastic and undeterred by repetition over the Fringe run.
The audience are captivated by the relationship between Pip and Estella from their onstage chemistry, and we are convinced of his love further in a melancholic ballad asking “would she ever deign to kiss a boy with hands as coarse as this?”. Miss Haversham is also portrayed well, with a tasteful combination of tragedy and wit. Skelton’s jittery hands hold her veil as a symbol of lost love, but although accentuated for comic effect we do not forget the tragic undertones of her character’s tale in a hauntingly realistic interpretation of severe anxiety.
The music complements each chain of events fantastically, and a lyrical transition between punchy songs covering all subjects from pork pies to a base aristocracy must be commended in it’s effortlessly mellifluous shift in tone whenever required. The band exhibit a fierce talent in the complicated, virtuoso score.
What was an ambitious project has indeed fulfilled the greatest of expectations after the success of previous years, as a highly accomplished musical arrangement is met with the talented faces who we must watch in the future. What larks, indeed.
Great Expectations was at C Venues from 14th until the 20th of August 2016.