Great Expectations at Garrick Theatre
Somehow Eddie Izzard plays every character in this really quite good one-woman stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Have you long pondered the question of whether or not a single person can perform an originally 180,000+ word, over 20 character Dickens epic on stage by themselves without any set changes, costume alterations or props? No? Well, Izzard has answered it anyway. And surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Great Expectations follows the life of Pip Pirrip (Izzard) who grows up a country bumpkin, raised by his much older sister (Izzard) and brother-in-law (Izzard). One day a lawyer (Izzard) pulls Pip out of that life to become a gentleman after learning he is to inherit a large amount of wealth and property after meeting the jilted Miss Havisham (Izzard) and her beautiful niece Estella (Izzard). Along the way, he meets a wealth of other characters (Izzard, Izzard, Izzard).
It might all seem a little overly ambitious. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s this performer. And that’s just what she does. And she is fantastic, portraying far too many characters than should be humanly possible, and yet, it works. It works very well. I suppose if you’ve got Eddie Izzard for one role, the only person who can bring such gravitas and depth to the other roles, by comparison, is, well, Eddie Izzard. Despite constantly flipping between roles, some of which can only have subtle differences given there are so many, her performance makes it remarkably easy to follow, and manages to be tremendously witty and affecting on top.
While on the surface there’s not much more to it than the artist herself, the staging shows phenomenal craft and plays a big part. It may be simple and unmoving, with only gentle lighting changes but it is beautiful and dramatic. It is the perfect backdrop for Dickens’s iconic story and feels right at home in the glorious Garrick theatre.
One-person shows can be terribly hit-and-miss. Great Expectations is very much on the hit end of the scale: funny enough that Izzard fans won’t be disappointed, dramatic enough that Dickens fans won’t be either.
Great Expectations is at Garrick Theatre from 24th May until 1st July 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.