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Great Expectations

Dundee Rep
Five stars

It is a bleak and austere house that Pip and Estella find themselves in at the opening and close of Jemima Levick's production of Charles Dickens' classic treatise on class, power and the perils of having ideas above one's station. Using Jo Clifford's original 1987 adaptation which has continually regenerated over the last three decades, Levick has utilised the script's rich and brutal poetry to create a magnificent and stately piece of darkly comic gothica that retains its period lyricism while becoming a profoundly pertinent play for today.

As a role-call of grotesques step through the walls of empty picture frames where still lives were once captured on Becky Minto's set, Pip is thrust from a poor provincial existence to the mysterious wonders of Miss Havisham's loveless parlour before being whisked off to London where he learns the ways of the world.

“If they do cut your throat,” says lawyer's clerk Wemmick to Pip of the human detritus around them as they bustle their way through the big city streets, “it is because they believe they can make a profit from it.” In a world where property is worth more than people and a gentleman is higher than everyone else, profit is all that counts.

What Levick does in this co-production between Dundee Rep Ensemble and the Perth based Horsecross Arts organisation is create an elaborate impressionistic dance that moves at a stately pace beneath the stark shadowplay of Mike Robertson's lighting but which never loses clarity. This is pulsed by a powerful piano score played live by David Paul Jones, who also weaves exquisitely moody arrangements of several contemporary songs into the mix.

Levick's eight-strong cast never put a foot wrong, with company veterans Emily Winter and, as a wraith-like Miss Havisham, Ann Louise Ross, rarely better. David Delve, John Macauley, Antony Strachan and Sally Reid are equally unforgettable. It is Millie Turner as the emotionally strangled Estella and especially Thomas Cotran as Pip, however, who carry this thrilling but troubling evocation of the everyday tragedies caused by one wrong turn.
 
The Herald, June 8th 2015


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