Home News News-Brighton Dickens’ Great Expectations at the Theatre Royal Brighton

Dickens’ Great Expectations at the Theatre Royal Brighton


Between 2nd-6th October 2012 Brighton’s Theatre Royal is showing a production of Charles Dickens Great Expectations.

Pip and Estella dance for Miss Havisham


Paul Nivison plays the adult Pip,
and Taylor Jay-Davies plays Pip in his youth.
Estella is played by Grace Rowe.

This stage adaption of his popular novel marks
Dickens’ bicentenary, was written by
leading Scottish playwright Jo Clifford, and
directed by Graham McLaren.

Great Expectations is presented by
Beer & Partners Limited and sponsored by
House of Worth and Rocco Venezia. The new
adaptation will be published by Nick Hern Books.

Great Expectations

is co-designed by Robin Peoples, lighting by
Kal Fischer, original music by Simon Slater,
and sound by Matt McKenzie.

Produced on tour by
Bruce Athol Mackinnon on behalf of
Beckman Unicorn Ltd. &
Satis House Productions Ltd.



Estella enters as an aloof young woman in need of companionship provided by young Pip at the expense of her guardian Miss Havisham. When she is sent abroad to further her education Pip is heartbroken.

Estella-Miss Havisham's ward and emotional plaything


Alas, Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day by a rogue. A nasty stock, but instead of getting over it she retreats into  isolation and self pity. Raising orphaned Estella as a single parent she is unable to teach her ward how to give and receive love.
Estella is taught how to freeze her emotions and hurt, only to be hurt in return. Beautiful but so alone.

Young Pip has to dance with her. He is awkward, torn by self doubt and adolescent anguish. She appears so cool and sophisticated, worldly and knowledgeable. Yet all along she is young and just wants to play and be liked.

Charles Dickens provides few laughs writing about the current affairs of his time. Great Expectations was first published in 1861 in a periodical.



Paula Wilcox (Hilary Potts in Emmerdale) plays Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster cheated in love, and determined to take it out on Pip and Estella.

Self pitying and tragic Miss Havisham


Pip’s fortunes change and he finds himself established in a fine London townhouse with the witty and entertaining Jaggers played by Jack Ellis.

Chris Ellison

However the underlying theme of the play is provided by escaped convict Magwich played brilliantly by Chris Ellison (DI Burnside in the Bill).

In the 1850’s crime and punishment was a hot topic of public debate. Before the loss of the North American colonies in 1776 prisoners were transported there as convict slave labour. After this time the prison population swelled amid growing abhorrence to the wide spread use of the death penalty. A few had been transported to the sugar plantations in the Caribbean only to quickly die from malaria spread by mosquito bites. Natives from tropical West Africa were better suited to the climate and subsequently used as slaves, although this was abolished by Parliament at the behest of William Wilberforce in 1807.

The discovery of Australia provided a similar climate to England’s and a solution to overcrowded jails. Transportation started in 1788, however by the time of writing it was ending. New South Wales, a prospering colony both unwilling to take and no longer needing convict labourers, was the first to end transportation in 1840. The last convicts were shipped to Western Australia in 1868, so  society pondered once again the problem of Britain’s prison population.


Pip and Magwich


There were two solutions suggested. Couples, represented by Pip and Estella, and his extended family Joe the blacksmith and his new wife, should bring up children with love and care so they wouldn’t become criminals in the first place.

The alternative was mass hangings  as portrayed in the sombre sentencing scene. Some laughed but most wept. 

The doomed convict Magwich awaits sentence


The stage was atmospherically lit and shrouded in mist bringing the ghostly mid Victorian times back to life. The professional cast worked well together. It definitely brought the audience to the edge of their seats on more than one occasion. The two sessions with interval in between were the right length for adults. Whether younger children would have found the second a bit long, it was certainly visually stunning.


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