Find the perfect dress for every occasion...
(National Theatre Live)
DIRECTOR: Graham Maclaren
CAST: Grace Rowe, Chris Ellison, Jack Ellis, Paula Wilcox, Taylor Jay-Davies
RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes
It’s been a bonus month for Charles Dickens and especially his classic Great Expectations, which appeared as a movie a few weeks back (still on circuit at the same complexes) and now for the first time a stage adaptation for Broadway and the West End (by Jo Clifford), which makes the viewing an adventurous one.
Personally I thought the film slightly pedestrian and too intent on telling the full story. And with the play, the challenge was to tell a story that travels widely but had to be contained to one space.
That’s not new to stage productions, but with some stories it becomes more of an issue, which usually means that the playwright or director have to find new and innovative ways to tell stories without losing the heart of their particular tale.
With this one it started with the adaptation, which to my mind was a problem in the film. They became so bogged down in the telling of the full story that the creativity was slowly drained from the story. With the stage script, the adaptation was a clever one that celebrated a young boy with great expectations, rather than dragging the classic story down.
It is a book, as the film so precisely tried to detail, that tells a story at length and wants to make particular points along the way that, when people try to adapt the story, they find tough to leave out.
But Dickens was writing in a time when life moved at a much slower pace. Not many people are going to sit through too long a play listening to a story they know. It’s about finding new ways to tell a story, and that is where this one captures both the imagination as well as a quality of Dickens and the way he told stories.
It’s about escaping into another world while also dealing with some of life’s harsh realities. And that’s the only way to learn, which is what Dickens knew as he told stories of those who didn’t have a voice – and still don’t have.
With the magic of the National Theatre Live, they do it again. It’s the best way to catch up with theatre that is happening half- way across the world. It’s quality classic English theatre, which is perhaps the one area we lack.
And now we can catch the best there is with a cast and crew who cannot be eclipsed and a way of telling stories that glorifies the thing that makes theatre best.
There’s no better master class on Great Expectations than catching both movies. It’s a rare gift.
The filming of the play was the culmination of the bicentenary Dickens celebrations and followed the play’s acclaimed UK tour.
• This production has four performances in South Africa – on September 7, 8, 11 and 12 – only at Cinema Nouveau theatres around the country and Ster-Kinekor Blue Route in Cape Town.