Miss Havisham’s Expectations**+ (Trafalgar Studios 2)

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Theatre

Gilded BalloonThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Hovering over Charles Dickens’ enduringly popular novel Great Expectations like a spectre, Miss Havisham has become an iconic, pitiable figure and the programme for this production tells us the she has even given her name to the psychological condition of “stuck grief”. Jilted on her wedding day by the feckless Freddie, she became so traumatised that she remains rooted in that day forever, a recluse in her fusty Gothic mansion. Di Sherlock’s one hour play, which she directs herself, looks at events in the novel from the perspective of Miss Havisham, examining her motives in adopting the young Estella to gain revenge on men and in taking under her wing the unsuspecting Pip to become her step-daughter’s intended victim. Sherlock’s Havisham is partly the character described by Dickens, partly an alternative version thereof and partly a 21st Century figure commenting sarcastically on Havisham and her creator (always referring to him as “Sir Dick”). These variations result in a lack of cohesion throughout the play and even a bravura performance by Linda Marlowe is not enough to paper over all the cracks. Is this Havisham a tragic character or is she a figure of fun? Whilst Sherlock wavers, the audience begins to lose interest. Marlowe makes her entrance wearing a singed, torn wedding dress with a white veil over her face. This is the Havisham we can all recognise from numerous earlier dramatisations, but what follows is less conventional. Her monologue is embellished with witty, modern asides to the audience, two conjuring tricks (executed with considerable aplomb) and an energetic performance of the can-can. Amusing as these diversions are, it is difficult to understand how they serve the themes of the play. This is an intermittently entertaining production and Marlowe is a delight throughout, but its inconsistency and lack of focus leave a feeling that we could have expected more.

Photo: Steve Ullathorne

Performance date: 11 December 2014

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