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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

New Era Players - Great Expectations

16th to 25th March 2023

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Newbury drama group exceeds all Expectations

There are many tropes associated with amateur dramatics: wobbly sets, fluffed lines, wooden performances – all a far cry from New Era’s excellent Great Expectations showing in their converted chapel in Wash Common until Saturday, March 25.

Lisa Harrington’s contemporary ensemble direction makes full use of the large, gifted cast which is reminiscent of Complicité’s work. Furniture arrives and departs with fluidity, trellis comes off the walls to define smaller spaces and, when not working in the scene, the characters sit on benches around the stage, watching the action unfold, witnesses to the interwoven destinies of Pip and Estella.

The principal performers show a professionalism that is rare in community theatre, with some truly exceptional performances. Keith Keer’s Magwich is the perfectly pitched rough diamond, Stephen Bennett plays Jaggers with a commanding yet caring presence, and Georgie Gale draws out the eccentricity of Havisham’s character. Keith Phillips’ Pumblechook and Suzanne Pearson’s Miss Wopsle are played with lightness and good humour, David Tute brings out all the optimism and goodness of Joe Gargery, while Sean Strange displays great versatility as the upright Sergeant and corrupt Orlick.

Special mention must go the young company – Peter Lillystone is a wide-eyed but confident young Pip, while Sophia Bailey is spot-on as the cruelly playful, manipulative young Estella.

There is a good deal riding on Jack Harman’s shoulders as the older Pip, carrying a larger portion of stage time. He is brilliantly supported by Emily Beck as the older, haughty Estella who seems to find breaking his heart time and again, quite effortless.

However, this was an ensemble production in the truest sense, presented with nuance, skill and generosity, which made Dickens’ complex novel completely clear and accessible, in a thoroughly enjoyable two hours of live theatre.