Review – Great Expectations At Lytham Hall

Lytham Hall Open Air Theatre Season for 2017 commenced last month with Chapterhouse Theatre Company’s production of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Weather-wise expectations were low as often the outdoor theatre season heralds wet and windy conditions! This didn’t put off stalwart theatre goers as they assembled under grey skies equipped with picnic tables and Prosecco! Although it remained dry, the wind grew to gale force during Act Two, stirring up the vast tree branches above us, making the dialogue hard to hear at times. All credit to the cast for battling through regardless. The brooding skies overhead only added to the foreboding for Pip, the protaganist’s, future.

The design team successfully produced a multi-purpose set for Dickens’ complex classic tale, being by turns Joe Gargery’s forge, Miss Haversham’s residence and rooms in London, as well as docks and marshes. The ever present gates to Satis House were a constant reminder of being the ominous gateway to Pip’s destiny.

Laura Turner rose to the challenge of condensing a huge novel into two hours of drama. However, at times the dialogue felt laboured and lacking in pace. The random bursts of song scattered throughout the piece lifted the mood but were curiously placed at times.

This repertory cast are also playing Pride and Prejudice around the country with Chapterhouse this summer, posing an extra challenge for their director, Richard Main, and inevitably compromises have to be made. Alex Bird as Pip gave us a believable transformation from country boy to gentleman, but sadly the casting was misplaced in other roles. The actors playing Joe and Magwitch would have been more suited to playing each other’s characters, and Miss Haversham and Molly would have been more convincing if played by older actresses.

Costumes by Pearl Constance were notable for their authenticity and Pip’s lifelong connection with Estella was subtly symbolised by his matching cravat to Estella’s dress. The cast worked hard in the open air to take us through this intricate tale with its twists and turns at the start of their own summer tour and can now allow this production to develop. Lytham’s Guardian Concert Band entertained the audience pre-show and at the interval adding a convivial atmosphere to the evening.

The open air season continues with Illyria Theatre Company bringing The Mikado on 20th August, and The Emperor’s New Clothes on 27th August.  Tickets are available at www.illyria.uk.com, from the Lowther Pavilion box office and at Lytham Hall as well as other local outlets.

 

 

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