November 27 - December 13, 1969

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens
Adapted for the stage by Gerald Frow

Household Words

"Fog everywhere, Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great and dirty city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights." That is the opening of the second paragraph of Bleak House. The first paragraph begins: "London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancelor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall." A stage direction if there ever was one. And onto the stage creeps the fog which envelops the scurrying fitures in the street. Dickens is nothing if not theatrical; in fact the first stage version (never performed) of Great Expectations was made by Dickens himself. I have never heard anyone speak of Tolstoy as 'theatrical' and surely he is the only novelist to come close to Dickens' genius. The in-built stage qualities of the novels cry out for actors to give them life.

In this particular adaptation of Great Expectations many characters and incidents are omitted – Orlick, the Pocket family (apart from Herbert), Mr. Wopsle, the dinner party at Mr. Jagger's home is not in the play – some characters are sketched in very lightly - Miss Skiffins, Mrs. Gargery, the Aged Parent – the sensation of the book is caught and compressed into two hours on the stage.

It is enormously rich. Towering figures suggest other creations – Miss Havisham has elements of an aged Ophelia, Magwitch is a reversed Prospero – the work as a whole suggests Measure for Measure and Pericles.

This is our first really enormous costume show; our wardrobe department has made over forty complete costumes. The staging is fluid; a place has to be suggested with a window or a portcullis; two basic rooms must suffice to suggest a forge, a decaying eighteenth century mansion, a tavern, a Regency villa in the Gothick taste, lodgings in Barnard's Inn, and a nineteenth century club room. Music has been found to bridge scene shifts and to suggest atmosphere. Essentially it is a company show; some actors play as many as four parts, props are shifted by the actors themselves, often they make scene shifts. It helps to know the novel, but it is by no means necessary. In our small compass we aim for one thing - delight.

– Christopher Newton

Cast & Creative Team
For Great Expectations

  • Michael Ball
    Joe Gargery, Gate Keeper, First Broker's Man
  • Margaret Barton
    Miss Havisham
  • Robert Cruse
    Colonel, Second Custom's Officer
  • James Eberle
    Second Soldier, Bentley Drummle, Second Broker's Man
  • James Edmond
    Wemmick
  • Owen Foran
    Magwitch, Man at the Office, Chairman, Coffin Carrier
  • Dana Ivey
    Mrs. Joe Gargery, Amelia, Miss Skiffins
  • Kenneth McBane
    Client, First Gentleman Finch, Coffin Carrier, Parson
  • Joel Miller
    Compayson, Turnkey, Coffin Carrier
  • Susan Mitchell
    Biddy
  • Victor Mitchell
    Uncle Pumblechook
  • Neil Munro
    Pip
  • Gregory Reid
    First Soldier, Jaggers, Tom, Mr. Trabb, Aged Parent
  • Pam Rogers
    Estella
  • Don Shipley
    Herbert Pocket
  • More Cast & Crew