Rotherhithe Playhouse (venue)
09 September 2021 (released)
09 September 2021
In a intimate corner against the walls of the Old Mortuary and sat under the spreading boughs of a huge wisteria Phil Willmot has written, conceived and directed a production that is small in scale but huge in heart. As an 'only play what you can afford' performance and set just a rumble away from the Rotherhithe Tunnel ,there is so much to applaud here. It feels very inclusive, from the warm welcome by the cast ushering you to your seats, to the surprises expression of the odd dog walker passing by the fence, discovering live theatre happening on their local estate. This is theatre creating moments and memories for a community that will endure.
It opens with the conceit that the workers in Mr Jaggers legal firm have decided to put on a play about one its most famous benefactors, Pip. This enables the production to be a true ensemble piece and makes a positive of the minimal staging, being ultra creative with props and set pieces. The company create live sounds from clanking chains to the striking of anvils in full view. Portable lanterns are used cleverly to lead the way and then positioned inside dolls houses to focus in on the various locations.
It seems wrong to single out individuals is such a strong ensemble company. However, Robert Vernon was particularly impressive as Joe Gargery, the blacksmith Pip is apprenticed to. He brought a depth to that character that was surprising. Gabriel Haastrup's Magwitch struck the perfect balance between the sinister convict and the developing benefactor of Pip, and as Estelle, Beatrice Vincent was tall in stature and had a wonderful sense of pent-up control.
There are some excellent physical theatre moments such as the demise of Miss Havisham played with exhuberance by Jan Olivia Hewitt.
Being one of Dicken's more convoluted stories there is inevitably moments where the story seems over stretched and others where it needed more time, but this production has struck a good balance and at no point does it confuse.
Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the company even when the sound system refused to start up in Act 2 and an unexpected thunderstorm caught them out in the rain. This is a little gem of a show that will delight all ages.