The Rondo, Bath,

Some actors, just by the way they look, are destined to play certain characters. In Gerry Flanaganís case it was always going to be Magwich, the anonymous criminal benefactor of young Pip in Charles Dickensís Victorian morality tale of wealth and social climbing. Itís no mean feat to take on one of the worldís classic stories, distill it and then retell it on one of the tiniest stages in the country with a cast of only three actors.

Shifting Sands have risen to the challenge and in this piece, which is a mix of melodrama, cartoon and physical theatre, and take the audience on a high-speed journey through the gloomy world of poverty and aspiration of Victorian England. The individual performances are very satisfying, notably those of Sophie Russell, and together with the ingenious use of simple costume and set changes, convey perfectly the mood of each twist and turn of Dickensís wonderful morality tale. The lighting is especially good, sometimes bright and cheery but often dark and at times lit only by candle. You get the sense that you could be watching the play in a little theatre somewhere in 19th century England.

The audience in the Rondo in Bath were completely absorbed, and surely there can be no greater compliment for any piece of story telling. Even my 12-year-old son, a fully paid up member of the computer game generation, was engrossed throughout. But I do have to say that I felt that the piece, at well over two hours, was too long and at times over-indulgent, with a few too many knowing winks and nods to the audience. That sort of pantomime style is inappropriate to this piece, which stands up strongly enough on its own without added frippery. But overall, Great Expectations is a compelling production presented by hugely talented performers and a wonderfully inventive retelling of Dickensís bittersweet tale.

Brian Popay

GREAT EXPECTATIONS at Terra Nova School, Cheshire
Cheshire Rural Touring

This production of Dickens' well known tale of "Mr Pip" in Great Expectations was a
tour de force of physical theatre and comic timing along with some truly dark and emotionally taut acting by Gerry Flanagan's Shifting Sands company of three actors.

Quite how they managed to switch from Jo Gargery to Ms Havisham and from Pip's "young gentleman" to the supremely unpleasantly haughty Estella was truly wonderful. And all done with a bare set, utilising two ancient trestle tables,a bench and simple props in the most imaginative way possible, with a most effective drapery of a curtained window to represent Ms Havisham's dusty stately home.

There were many great visual and auditory jokes during the performance, utilising fantastic
comic talent by all members of the cast, who were also able to captivate a large number of
young audience. They were spellbound and all the cast were able to exert astonishing control by both responding to asides and improvising very quick and humorous exchanges directly with them, but then reasserting authority when the action needed to move on.

It was great to see so many young people enjoying such a complex plot and clearly following every bit, and showing no signs of restlessness.

I so wish that Goostrey had booked this one. Can it go back on next year's menu for others
to experience? You cannot fail to be entertained.

Janet Ollier
Rural Touring Promoter, Goostrey