Tag Archives: Matthew Wade

Great Expectations

★★★★

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

Reviewed – 17th August 2019

★★★★

 

“the company succeeds in bringing off this show with great flair”

 

If you haven’t yet discovered the oasis of peace in busy Hoxton that is the Geffrye Museum, then, for the next few weekends in August, you have an additional reason to go. Free Theatre UK is performing a “steam punk” version of Charles Dickens’ beloved classic Great Expectations that audiences of all ages will enjoy. This is an outdoors production, so bring along a picnic, something to sit on, and don’t worry if it rains. The company is well prepared with tents for both performers and the audience. And did I mention it’s free?

Great Expectations is the kind of novel that gets introduced to school kids at too young an age, and it is often years before they wish to tackle Dickens again. This is a great pity not only because the story of Pip and the extraordinary characters who surround him is unforgettable, but as always, Dickens paints a vast canvas illuminating the lived realities of the Industrial Age. It is appropriate, therefore, that Free Theatre has chosen to perform this adaptation in the grounds of the Geffrye Museum, founded and built by a successful merchant as almshouses for the widows and orphans of ironmongers. Skillfully adapted by Phil Willmott, this production of Great Expectations is also highly accessible, so it’s a wonderful way to introduce your kids to Dickens before they have a chance to get discouraged.

Like Pip, Free Theatre UK also has “great expectations,” and the company succeeds in bringing off this show with great flair. Everything has been thought through with care, from the greeter at the gate who ushers you into the gardens of the Geffrye Museum, to the actor who courteously bids you farewell at the end of the show. The set is elaborate by outdoors performance standards, with a lot of imaginative touches. Both this, and the costumes, designed by Penn O’Gara, give this production its “steam punk” elements, and if there is one criticism to be made, it is that this idea could have been developed a bit further in the script. But the design elements use steam punk to memorable effect.

Free Theatre UK is, for the most part, a young company, although what some performers lack in experience, they make up for in talent. Under the capable direction of Phil Willmott, everyone has a chance to shine. Noteworthy performances include Cal Chapman as Pip, Darcey O’Rouke as Estella, and the terrific Matthew Wade, who takes on contrasting roles as the convict Magwitch, and as Joe, Pip’s gentle and caring foster father. There’s also Jan Hewitt’s wonderfully operatic Miss Havisham to enjoy as well. As an ensemble, the cast works beautifully together, taking on multiple roles, sharing the narration between them, and even performing some live music.

You’ve got two weekends and Bank Holiday Monday to catch this glorious show. Go!

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Images by Joseph Mark Photography

 

The Geffrye, Museum of the Home

Great Expectations

The Geffrye Museum of the Home until 1st September

 

Previous ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Holy Land | ★★★ | The Space | June 2019
Strange Fruit | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | June 2019
The Luncheon | ★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | June 2019
Past Perfect | ★★★★ | Etcetera Theatre | July 2019
When It Happens | ★★★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | July 2019
Boris Rex | ★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | August 2019
Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain Part Four | ★★★ | Apollo Theatre | August 2019
Showtune | ★★★★ | Union Theatre | August 2019
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2019
Agent 14 | | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | August 2019

 

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Othello
★★★★

Union Theatre

Othello

Othello

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 20th March 2019

★★★★

 

“excellent acting, purposeful direction and evocative visuals”

 

Spurred by the centenary of the Amritsar massacre, Phil Willmott sets this tragic tale of love, jealousy and vengeance in India during the British Raj, casting Othello as an Officer – one of the few Indian soldiers who made it through training at Sandhurst and back to a position of command in the British army. Within the rich tapestry of plot, characters and language Shakespeare epitomises the malevolent aspect of human nature, sparked by its undermining negative feelings of resentment, envy and insecurity. He also brings to light the subject of racism and in this production, we are reminded of the abhorrent attitude towards Indians in their own country. Inferior in rank and whose lower-class British background prevents any hope of promotion, Iago seethes with rancour and orchestrates those around him in an evil revenge; Othello, weakened by self-doubt, falls into the trap.

The scene is set with a tastefully oriental design and some strongly patriotic piano playing. But once the plot begins to unfurl, the background fades. Despite the resetting, it is the words which define the narrative and the dimensions and balance of the characters which bring context. Matthew Wade creates the impression of a young, earnest General, helplessly in love; he lacks the majestic quality of the original experienced warrior which makes his downfall by a malicious, conniving underdog so tragic. Rikki Lawton’s powerful rendering of a more identifiably modern Iago dominates the action and his psychopathic nature eclipses a personal hatred, making Othello simply another of his victims. With his significance diminished, this becomes Iago’s story.

Despite the imbalance we can enjoy the colonial flavour through the atmospheric set (Justin Williams and Jonny Rust), Zoe Burnham’s sublime, cinematographic lighting, detailed costumes, (Penn O’Gara) and solid, nuanced interpretations all round. In particular, Jerome Dowling’s Cassio wins our empathy as he is caught unawares in Iago’s net. As Desdemona, Carlotta De Gregori portrays the incomprehension and suffering of her husband’s turn of face with great sensitivity, but her initial coquettish behaviour towards him only hinders our perception of his standing. And a spirited Emilia (Claire Lloyd) adds plausibility to the era through her accent and demeanour, though fails to grow into the play’s increasing tension.

This modern take on ‘Othello’ has all the ingredients of success – some excellent acting, purposeful direction and evocative visuals – but as a consequence of the weight of importance between Iago and Othello on stage, it is in retrospect rather than a reaction to the drama that we feel the relevance of Willmott’s fresh approach.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Othello

Union Theatre until 6th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | March 2018
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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