One of numerous thoroughly spectacular aspects of the February 2013 live performance of the Charles Dickens classic "Great Expectations" that East End boys and West End girls present at the Vaudeville Theater in London is that what seems to be an unduly artistic production very quickly gives way to two hours of incredible theater.
It is equally awesome that the recently released DVD, which is exclusively available on Amazon, of "Expectations" provides a chance to enjoy this play in the comfort of your own home or classroom.
Fans of Dickens generally and "Expectations" specifically will get the timeless opening words "my father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip" from the novel stuck in his or her head immediately on learning of this DVD.
Substituting this opening with a very haunting tableau that begins the story decades beyond main character Pip's childhood is initially disconcerting. However, theater veterans Jo Clifford and Graham McLaren pull it off extraordinarily well.
The overall feeling that the set and characters are straight out of the Haunted Mansion attraction at the Disney parks is very apt for this dark tale of an orphan boy who suffers abuse at the hands of the wife of the couple who takes him in after the deaths of his family members and later suffers assorted manipulations at the hands of legendary literary character Miss Havisham.
The darkness is equally appropriate regarding the plight of escaped convict Magwitch, who suffers his own unwarranted personal hell.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for this DVD superbly shows the wonderful creepiness that gives "Expectations" as much of an air of Shakespearean drama as the 1946 David Lean film version of this tale.
McLaren does particularly well staging Pip the gentleman's interactions with his tutor and servant, as well as with Mr. Jaggers, the attorney who prides himself on merely doing as he is instructed. Pip's well-known dramatic confrontation of Miss Havisham during this stage in his life is also particularly well presented.
The highly dramatic nature of "Expectations" alone make it a great story; the fact that the themes that it presents are highly relevant roughly 150 years after Dickens wrote it shows the validity of the well-deserved classic status that it possesses.
Many children in a modern foster-home type situation in which Pip is living when we meet him suffer the same physical abuse and other mistreatment that that character endures at the hands of his guardian. The same is even more true regarding the deception and manipulation that Pip experiences.
Further, Magwitch's history with the Victorian-era justice system has many parallels with what other people experience today.
Additionally, the "Mommie Dearest" chapter from the life of former movie star Joan Crawford has many parallels with the fictional bitter and resentful existence of jilted bride Miss Havisham; this comparison extends to adopting (and brutally attempting to mold) a waif with a tragic history.
One need not even look back to the mid-20th era of "Dearest" to find examples of people who have experienced a heartbreak or other tragedy that has ruined their lives. Further, the girls of "Grey Gardens" show that isolating yourself in your crumbling once stately home is not only a thing of fiction.
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