Great Expectations (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, October 6

Chris Ellison (Magwitch) and Taylor Jay-Davies (Young Pip) in Great Expectations. Photo: Alastair Muir.
Chris Ellison (Magwitch) and Taylor Jay-Davies (Young Pip) in Great Expectations. Photo: Alastair Muir.

THIS was a clever adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations.

Performances were a traditional delight, with the monstrous, misunderstood and generally good natured characters, portrayed ably by the talented cast.

Chris Ellison (Frank Burnside in The Bill) was suitably threatening as Magwitch the criminal, Paula Wilcox (Hilary Potts in Emmerdale) was jaw droppingly cruel as damaged gentlewoman Miss Havisham and Taylor Jay-Davies as Young Pip, a commoner with great expectations, at times, innocent, terrified and snobbish.

The same room was used throughout the play, but made to appear different with the ingenious use of lighting.

Costumes were rich and eye catching, while the dialogue was waspish, to the extent that some of the characters’ retorts left you visibly wincing.

And the play has a lot to say about society, both in Dickens’ day and in the modern 21st century.

The message seems to be that money and being of a certain class do not make you better than other people, for example the character Bentley Drummle may have a country estate in Gloucestershire, but he is also a wife beater, a taboo subject in Dickens’ day.

It shows the yawning chasm between the poor, who work hard for their money, and the wealthy, who get the poor to do their work for them.

Ultimately the characters in the book who go in search of love and who remain monetarily poor, are the ones who are emotionally well off, but it is those who pursue wealth and station in society, who end up with nothing.

Great Expectations which was originally published between 1 December 1860 and 3 August 1861, has been adapted for the stage by Jo Clifford, who is one of Scotland’s leading playwrights.

Box Office 0844 871 7650 (bkg fee)

Ticket prices £10 - £29.50

7.45pm, Thu and Sat matinees 2.30pm

Samantha Clark