Fast pace … Jacki Mison (Miss Havisham) and Patrick Sherwood (Pip). Photo: Supplied
ATYP Studio, November 6
Until November 17
IT'S not often you come out of a 160-minute show thinking it would have been better were it 15 minutes longer.
Dickens's saga, adapted by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, founders of Britain's Cheek by Jowl, dices Pip's first-person narrative into fragments to be delivered by a large cast. It is very condensed (the Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark Nickleby, remember, ran for nearly nine hours) but Dickens's gallery of characters remains vividly present, even if the impact of some of the tale's major episodes is reduced.
This Bakehouse production, directed by John Harrison with a cast of 15, has a foot on the gas from the start. After a delightful opening scene (in which the grown-up Pip emerges from a suitcase opened by his younger self), it begins to feel like theatre working to a 10.15pm curfew.
Sometimes, the hustle is infectiously energising. Elsewhere, you become aware that the sharpness of Dickens's character writing is being smeared into generality. Instead of hard edges, we tend to see the whizz lines of a cartoon strip. Definition, refinement and breathing are vital in this kind of work and more is needed here.
On the plus side, Harrison makes good use of this atmospheric venue, placing the action on and around a tilted wooden ''O''. Enhanced by stage smoke, lighting designer Christopher Page's contribution is notably strong. This mostly young cast proves spirited and capable, though some shine harder than others - Jim McCrudden's Jaggers and Stephen Lloyd-Coombs's Herbert Pocket, for example. Jacki Mison, imprisoned in a mosquito net upstage, brings a touch of contemporary gothic to Miss Havisham and Patrick Sherwood's brawny Pip embodies the difficulty facing anyone making such a prodigious leap across the great divide of class and culture.