May 20 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, March 8, 2012
»West Wickham’s amateur drama group Theatre 62 normally comes up trumps when they stage productions in the round – and their recent adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations was no exception, writes Mark Campbell.
This was a tight retelling by Hugh Leonard that still ran at almost three hours, but seemed shorter. Director Rosemary Harris ensured that the action was always well paced, with transitions and general scene setting aided by Jon Lewis’ superlative sound design.
The cast was excellent, with lots of charming characterisation colouring an eventful plot that sees blacksmith’s son Pip transformed into a young gentleman, only to discover that his wealth comes from a very unlikely source.
Both Pips – boy and young man – were played with total conviction by Danny McIlhiny and James Mercer respectively. The scene where one replaces the other, virtually mid-sentence, was simple but effective.
Humour was provided by David Kinch as Pip’s brother-in-law Joe Gargery and Del Stone as office clerk John Wemmick.
These were delightful performances, sympathetic, sweet and – although exaggerated – grounded in a peculiar kind of reality.
Andrew Herbert’s starchily superior Jaggers was spot-on, while Pieter Jan Swinge was perfect as the obsequious Pumblechook.
Emily Smith was a serious and intense Estella, as you would expect from the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham.
Here was the production’s only real misstep. Carolyn Taylor is a very good actress, but she was far too lively and energetic to successfully portray the stagnant, decaying figure of this aging jilted bride. Her fiery death lost something in its execution too, although it was a valiant attempt at achieving the near-impossible.
John Oakenfull (Magwitch), Ray Harris (the dotty Aged Parent), Ruth Aylward (Biddy), Samantha Elgar (Mrs Joe) and Matthew Sanderson (Herbert) completed a strong line-up.
Atmospheric and involving, this was a very fine show indeed.
n The next production at Theatre 62 will be Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas from April 30 to May 5. Tickets 020 8777 3037.