This year’s summer production was an adaptation by Julia Golding of one of Dickens’s best known and loved novels Great Expectations. Directed by Sebastian Palka and design by Jo Clegg and costumes by Vanessa Fox.
Thanks to our audience for you such lovely comments…
“We were stunned by the quality of the performance: First time we have been.
Please convey our thanks to the whole team for a memorable event.
My 11 year old granddaughter from Hong Kong really enjoyed it, as did my 86 year old mother ( It was part of her birthday gift)”
“Best production ever”
“I thought the production was quite amazing and especially the design of the set, which to me was fascinating, trying to work out the materials that had been used to make the books so realistic”
“We went with friends last night to see the play and not only was the acting superb but the set was wonderful and so fitting for the actions. Our friends we so impressed with it all but it was a fantastically visual set”
“Thank you to you all for an amazingly English evening last week. The setting was just beautiful and the play quite gripping and so easily followed as I didn’t know the story at all”
“We much enjoyed the play and liked the way it was presented with Dickens as the narrator and voice for the young Pip”
“I enjoyed it, really well done.
Taxed my memory of the plot a bit (from my school days!)
Loved the giant books as universal props – so clever when I looked closely”
“Thank you for such a fantastic show tonight by the Blewbury Players. Exceeded my expectations!!! Well done to all”
“Fabulous set – loved the idea of the books”
“Could hear every word”
An appreciation published in Oxfordshire Drama Network Newsletter…
The Blewbury garden arena was an ideally sylvan setting for last year’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, but not so obviously fitted for the bleak marshes or the bustling London of Dickens’ novel, specially adapted here by local author Julia Golding. So the staging was emblematic rather than naturalistic, with a pile of gigantic books at one side, on top of which we discover Dickens himself (Steve White) at his desk writing the story we are about to witness, and returning throughout the evening to hurry the tale along. And a long tale it is, beginning from childhood – engaging performances from the young actors here – and involving an array of minor characters, virtuous, villainous or grotesque, too many to mention in a short appreciation. Period costumes were fine without being fussy, and the large cast was effectively deployed by director Sebastian Palka, sometimes in frozen tableaux, sometimes as a crowd (of noisy Londoners, for example) to set a scene. The beginning of the play is dominated by the fearsome besom Mrs Joe (Zillah Laidlaw, “translated” indeed from her radiant Titania last year), and then we meet the haughty Miss Havisham (Jane Gibson, with perfect poise and diction). Time moves on, and the full-grown Pip (Dan Shipman-Toon, believably ingenuous) is whisked to London under the eye of the commanding Jaggers (Bob Brooks). Estella is there too (Georgia Brennan-Scott, resplendent in a green satin dress, ensuring that our eyes as well as Pip’s are fixed on her), and perhaps the most dramatic moment of the evening is the pivotal confrontation between her and Pip, when he tries in vain to melt her cynical resolve to marry for pragmatic, not romantic, reasons. There’s plenty more incident to follow, of course, and the pursuit on the Thames leading to the death of Magwitch (Chris Lakeland, an affecting portrayal) was convincingly staged, followed by the inevitably muted partly-happy ending. Blewbury Players have a strong tradition and a strong team, and there were no weak links here – another production they can be proud of.
We arrived to see lots of people picnicking in the beautiful garden of Orchard Dene, and enjoying a glass or three of Pimm’s! Later, we were guided into the performance area, a delightful garden with hedges for a backcloth and surrounded by shrubs & trees. The seating is tiered, so everyone had a good view.
The set was made up of giant books (at least very cleverly made to look like books) some about 12 ft long (4m). Some of the smaller ones were moved about during the play to make tables, gravestones, a boat etc.
I loved the idea of Dickens (played by Steve White) narrating the story throughout, sometimes speaking as Pip, who the story is about – I think it worked well, even when Steve dropped in and out of the character of Mr Watson.
A strong start saw great acting from Zillah Laidlaw as Mrs Joe, Pip’s nagging sister, & young Pip (Eddie Good), and we soon met the convict played powerfully by Chris Lakeland with a very convincing fight scene later.
Generally the acting was excellent from this large cast – too many to mention, but well done to all.
There was even some ‘unaccompanied’ singing from virtually the whole cast – not an easy thing to do, but they did.
The script (adapted from the book by Julia Golding) kept closely to the Dickensian period, so it all sounded right for the period, presumably she used Dickens’ words as much as possible.
As someone remarked, “it was a bit of a précis of Dickens (very long) story”, but it all made for a very entertaining evening.
Thank you Blewbury Players
Mike Davies, Oxfordshire Drama Network