By Kyle Poluyko
Beginning November 29, Magnus Theatre presents a journey back into the expressive, timeless, and quintessential Dickensian atmosphere with Richard Ouzounian’s adaptation of Great Expectations.
The production follows the story of Pip, an orphan sure of the gentleman he can become, as he endeavours to break free of his lowly societal bonds. Though ostensibly thwarted at every attempt, good fortune comes to Pip at the hand of a mysterious patron, and life is changed when he begins working for the mystifying Miss Havisham and her confoundingly attractive daughter.
This production, also directed by Ouzounian, is a revision of his adaptation originally staged at Barrie’s Talk Is Free Theatre in 2012. Only nine characters remain in this re-imagining of Dickens’ classic, which was also previously a fully-developed musical that spanned decades and their trends. “It just was confusing, I realized after, because the story itself is a strong story,” Ouzounian admits of that initial staging.
Original cast members Justin Goodhand, Carson Nattrass, and Alex Poch-Goldin have reunited, with the addition of Lauren Toffan to complete the ensemble. Poch-Goldin, Nattrass and Toffan each portray multiple characters in Great Expectations. Nattrass says, “The characters that I play (Joe and Herbert) with Pip seem more like family and speak to his heart. I get to have a lovely sort of warm journey with Pip. They are also characters I find quite amusing so I have quite a bit of fun presenting two very different physical types and voices. And getting to work with this language and this adaptation is absolutely terrific.” Poch-Goldin shares similar sentiments about his roles, saying “I love the play. I love the language in the play and I get to play characters that are kind of outliers, people who affect Pip but they also have their own individual journeys.”
In his revision, Ouzounian says focusing the time period became a crucial focus and fix. “The book takes 28 years from the start to the finish, and I thought ‘Where’s a good 28 years that would be interesting to look at?’ and where we sit it is from the end of WWI to the end of WWII.” Ouzouinian’s feeling is that the period remains appealing and relevant, not too distant, and “with just enough Downton Abbey in the background to appeal to people.”
Though this is an adaptation of Great Expectations, Ouzounian assures that “Every word on the stage is Charles Dickens. We’ve cut, edited, pasted, and moved around but it’s all Dickens.” In fact, this production has been completely shaped for Magnus and Thunder Bay. “We’ve fully staged and rehearsed it here. The way it looks is absolutely different. So it’s been exciting. It’s a new experience, really.”
Great Expectations is onstage at Magnus Theatre through December 14. For more information call 345-5552 or visit magnus.on.ca