I would like to thank my lovely bookstagram friend Mrs D for encouraging me to have a ‘Great Expectations Buddy Read’. This is a book that I remember having a go at about 10 years ago, but I didn’t get very far. I think Dickens has always seemed daunting, so I needed a bit of a push to give it a go.
‘Great Expectations’ is a story that I am sure so many of us think we know. It is certainly a tale I thought I knew from various film and television adaptations. However, there is so much more to the book that I think you would ever be able to transfer to the screen. It also struck me that this always seems to follow set ideas when it is adapted. Pip always seems to be played as an innocent, Miss Havisham as so old and odd, and Estella as simply cold-hearted. That is, of course, part of their characters but not the be all and end all. Dickens has such a creative way of crafting his characters that they are never so simple.
The story of Pip and his coming of age is a great adventure but also highlights some real flaws in human nature. Especially some of the expectations we and society place place on ourselves and, sometime, there expectations are also our undoing. However, there is also the ease with which some people are manipulated or moulded into a certain way of being and thinking about themselves or others.
Dickens’ writing style brings every single moment of this story to life. You really feel you are on the marshes and in London – and especially when you are in the walls of ‘Satis House’, that famous home of Miss Havisham. The settings are as much part of the story as the characters and the action.
Reading this has certainly given me the bug to read more Dickens. Although, I cannot deny that I am still a little intimidated by some of his larger books.
Do you have a favourite Dickens novel?
I am a huge fan of the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (and I must confess that it is the only Dickens tale that I have read from start to finish), so when I saw that the RSC was going to be doing an adaptation this festive season, I had to get tickets. Then my excitement was heightened when the cast was announced and Phil Davis was to be taking on the role of Scrooge; he has been a family favourite of ours for a long time, especially for shows such as ‘Whitechapel’ and the appearances that he makes in all our favourites.
So, on the 16th December (I know, I am a little behind – blame festivities) we arrived at a very Christmassy Royal Shakespeare Theatre to take our seats for ‘A Christmas Carol’. From the moment the production started, you were transported to Victorian England at Christmas time. The thing I admired the most was that such a simple set transported us to all the favourite destinations in the tale, from Scrooge’s chambers to Fezziwig’s Christmas party, in such simple moves of staging from all of those involved. The other immediate charm was that it was a small cast who took on the mammoth job of bringing this favourite to life, but it was all so cleverly done with subtle links between the characters they took on (I always admire a quick change).
Dickens takes you through the story as the narrator of the tale (although he too must take on other roles as we move through the play, but you almost do not notice, as it is all such a smooth transition). However, what I really admired about the tale having some narration, rather than it just being played out, was the real focus on context that this story was given with this narration. The social and historical context were really key to this production and this in fact probably made the tale even more relevant for the modern audience as, sadly, we are still in a society of clear divisions.
The costumes and the effects throughout the production are absolutely stunning. Every single member of the company appears to thoroughly enjoy themselves from start to finish, and you are entranced from the very beginning. The audience certainly showed a great deal of appreciation for the play.
I am not sure I can ever really say that I have a favourite Scrooge – give me any opportunity to read, see or listen to this story over the festive period and I will take it. However, Phil Davis was a wonderful Scrooge, conveying the small emotional changes you see in the character as the story unfolds before his eyes just as it does for us.
I would highly recommend catching this at the RSC if you can; it is another wonderfully festive interpretation of a much-loved classic and it will keep that festive spirit alive a little longer as we head into 2018!