By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Wednesday 24 May, runs until 1 July 2023 RUNTIME: 135 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
The most emotional moments during this 1-woman performance of the Dickens coming of age classic are when Izzard, who plays all the 20-or-so parts, conveys the heartache of not being the choice of someone loved by main character Pip.
- Read on for reasons including how there aren’t many people we could think of who could carry this off
Adapted by Izzard’s brother Mark, Great Expectations is the story of orphan Pip and the mystery benefactor who brings him to London to educate him to become a gentleman.
It was first published as a serial by Charles Dickens between 1860 and 1861 and features many well-known characters including Miss Havisham, who wears an old wedding dress after she was jilted on her wedding day, her cold adopted daughter Estella, who Pip falls for, and escaped convict Abel Magwitch who Pip helps.
Izzard and Dickens share a birthday 150 years apart and Izzard explains in the programme that, having dyslexia, she has never read a great work of literature so decided to record an audiobook of Great Expectations.
Izzard is a gifted storyteller and distinguishes between speakers by turning between nearly every line of dialogue to face the opposite direction in a technique borrowed from Richard Pryor’s stand-up.
The comedienne completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in 2009 and 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa in honour of Nelson Mandela raising £1.35 million in 2016 and clearly doesn’t do things by halves.
First performed as a monologue at the end of last year during a 9-week run on Broadway at the Greenwich House Theater, Manhattan, this is an incredibly impressive piece of memory as anysolo show of this length must be.
Dickens was renowned for his complex plots and, although this is very much an abridged version, there is a lot to explain and while Izzard is occasionally very funny this production does occasionally feel like a feast for the ears – like an audiobook – rather than for the eyes also.
Directed simply by Selina Cadell, the stage is framed by both red velvet curtains and torn white netting. Izzard wears lace-up boots, has long bright red finger nails and lips and bleached white hair.
Izzard has always relished a challenge, there’s much to enjoy here and there aren’t many people we can think of who could carry off this kind of theatrical test with quite such charm and feeling.
- Main picture via Facebook courtesy Nimax Theatres Tickets
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