I love a good surprise. You know, like going to a party or a restaurant or a movie with a negative 'Do I have to?' attitude and coming away having your thinking challenged and raving how brilliant the experience was. Well, that was me after watching Playing Miss Havisham at Liverpool City Library.
I'm no Charles Dickens aficionado and I've never read his novel Great Expectations. I'd only a vague notion of who Miss Havisham was after seeing the first episode of the latest made for television production of this Dickens classic. But after my better half advised me that we were going to see Playing Miss Havisham and I didn't really have much choice in the matter, I submissively acquiesced as after all, it was free thanks to the generosity of the folks at Liverpool Library. Coffee and bickies too.
Playing Miss Havisham is an extraordinary one person play performed and co-written by New Zealand actor Helen Moulder. For 90 minutes, Helen plays Claudia (and a range of other characters) who tells us the story of what happens when an eccentric Irish film maker arrives to make a New Zealand version of Great Expectations. This once in a life time opportunity of playing Miss Havisham creates quite a bit of anxiety for Claudia, affecting her relationships with her loved ones as the story unfolds and takes more twists and turns than a Dickens novel.
It's a charming and delightful tale. With minimal staging and the addition of some classical music masterpieces, singing, dance and humour, Moulder effortlessly brings these characters to life. She dons a very impressive multi-dimensional Miss Havisham wedding dress with cobwebbed wig and adopts some very convincing regional accents. Moulder's use of audience participation techniques maximises the audience's involvement and interest in a subtle and unique fashion.
The performance at Liverpool kicks off a tour of eastern Australia and includes several performances in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and some regional centres. The tour runs until July and coincides with both the celebration the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth and the National Year of Reading.
If you are a Dickens lover or never heard of him, have great expectations or none at all, if you decide to see Playing Miss Havisham, don't be surprised if you come away raving about it.