Great Expectations Fully Realized
Alton Fringe’s production this week of Great Expectations was a rare treat indeed.
It was a triumph of performance, the actors leading the audience to many locations
– wild, lonely places as well as bustling city streets, humble interiors to the grandest
and most rambling of mansions – and through many years, from Pip as a young boy to
his life as a young adult. We remained with the actors throughout, the clarity of
their performances taking us on Pip’s emotional journey too. Set against a monotone
stage, the colourful characters portrayed by the actors sang out vibrantly. The cast
filled their roles credibly – even when women were playing male parts and older people
playing younger characters. All the performances were very strong. Chris Lang gave
a very accessible, warm and controlled performance as Pip, and James Willis, as Joe
Gargery, brought much humour to the stage. Alison De Ledesma’s thoughtful portrayal
of Miss Havisham contrasted with Hannah Brown’s proud Estella and Tim Guilding’s
Great Expectations was also a triumph of direction. With Louise Dilloway at the directorial
helm, Alton Fringe fashioned a thrilling evening’s entertainment. Physical theatre
played a large part, with the actors portraying both the many characters that people
Dickens’ story and, excitingly, the environment – whispering graves, stormy seas
and creaking doors. Much of the evening’s humour was created by the snobbish way
in which the doors in Miss Havisham’s rambling house creaked as if they were looking
down their nose at the lowly Pip. The climax to the story, in which there is a chase
at sea amid stormy waves, was thrilling to watch and created great suspense in the
audience. Throughout the performance, freeze-
The small square of performance-
Alton Fringe’s creation of Great Expectations was also a triumph of production. Less was most definitely more – stylish lighting brought atmosphere and a sense of place, the set was bare and props kept to a minimum. The fire scene in Miss Havisham’s house was vividly brought to life with lighting, sound effects and effective props. Rapid changes of scene were smoothly effected for the most part so that the story rolled out swiftly and confidently.
The remarkable thing is that all this was achieved by a small team in a modest and intimate space. For the audience the experience was compelling as we were pulled into the sharing of the story; we felt that we ourselves were contributing to the retelling of the story as actors’ voices came from all around the studio, including from among the audience; we felt we were providing walls around the performance
space, as if we were ourselves providing the physical theatre. It was a safe environment for us, the audience – we trusted the actors, believed in their characters and their story.
And through all this – the complexities of the story, the exciting acting techniques, the stylish production – Pip’s calm narration offered an ostenato rhythm providing a secure base for the variations of mood, character and place, bringing the whole performance to a compelling cohesion.
A stunning achievement – and a riveting evening at the theatre!
Kate and Matilda Ferry-
Great Expectations Fulfilled.
Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of Dickens’ “Great Expectations” demanded some brave
experimentation from the Alton Fringe Theatre, but in director Louise Dilloway’s
strong hands they took up the challenge with enthusiasm, and delighted their audiences,
once again, with their imaginative, even passionate response to the melodramatic
tale. On a virtually bare stage, with few props, and dressed entirely in black and
white, the company of seventeen created Victorian England for us, from the bleak
marshes of Kent to the crowded streets of London, peopled with a whole crowd of characters
from every walk of life. Central to every scene was the hero, Pip. In a remarkably
assured performance, Chris Lang portrayed the frightened, ill-
In this way the audience became engaged by the power of the
narrative. We enjoyed some amusing caricatures : Morris Hopkins, for example, played
a wonderfully frisky Mr. Pumblechook, and Ann Scott, the mistress of perfect timing,
a zestfull Sarah Pocket, alongside a versatile Chris Chappell as Compeyson. Ian Dussek
(Mr. Wopsle) was gloriously pious, Jo Foulkes played a jaunty Herbert Pocket who
developed into Pip’s loyal, honest and tender friend and Hannah Brown made a pert,
imperious Estella, that damaged child. The ensemble work was excellent : doubling
and trebling of parts, countless exits and entrances and scene-
Many, many congratulations on tonight’s production and performances. Brilliant all round ! Well done !
Please congratulate the cast.
A stunning production last night and to my mind 'faultless'. Please pass on congratulations to the whole team.
Keep up the good work,
I had to drop you a line to say how much [we] very much enjoyed last night’s performance.
Not having been before or knowing much about AFT, we were truly gob-
We spent the whole of our hour-
The standard was so high, the acting fantastic and the whole thing just brilliant.
Mrs. Gargery, well I think I might have to report her to the NSPCC for her treatment of Pip; Jaggers was so believable I might ask him to represent me, and as for Pip, well, words that do justice to Chris Lang’s acting and diction do not exist...
Please pass on our commendations to all concerned.
[We] wanted you all to know how much we enjoyed your wonderful production!
Please pass on our congratulations to the whole cast and team.
We are so lucky in Alton to have first rate theatre on our doorstep...thank you.
I was so impressed with your performance! The whole thing was excellent. Congratulations on all concerned on a thoroughly entertaining evening.
Can you please pass on our congratulations to the cast and crew for a
suburb performance / execution of a well known book / play.
We thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to your next production.