First known as a familiar BBC 4 Radio Comedy, now Bleak Expectations has come to life as a stage production at the Watermill Theatre.
Walking into the theatre, you’re transported to the 19th century and find piles of books stacked high on a multi-layered stage. It’s the perfect venue to premiere this Dickensian production, with its spiral staircases and wooden barn interior.
We’re welcomed by narrator Sir Philip Bin, played by Nicholas Murchie, who tells us the story of his bizarre childhood which unfolds before our eyes. From his father being killed by a pack of monkeys and his sister carrying around an anvil all her life to his headmaster plotting to kill him and his court case over the invention of the bin.
The unpredictable plot twists, turns and packs in the references to every stereotypical Dickensian character you can think of. They also do a brilliant job of bringing in some familiar lines but with a comedic twist, for example, “Please sir, I want some…less” and “It was the best of times, it was the best of times”.
It’s the ingenious writing of the characters and script teamed with the high energy characters and huge personalities that make the production endlessly entertaining. You almost don’t mind where the plot goes as it's the characters' reactions and interactions that are so addictive to watch.
You don’t need to be a Dickens expect to understand or enjoy and, regardless of your sense of humour, it’s hard to not give in to constantly chuckling along to this wonderfully absurdist farce.
This sort of parody of serious literature has been done many times before, both successfully and unsuccessfully, but I think it's safe to say this production firmly sits in the former.