THUNDER BAY, ON --- December 9, 2013 ---- Currently play at Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre is Richard Ouzounian’s version of Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” The very mention of Charles Dickens brings back memories of my first year at Lakehead University and in particular my first year English course which featured an in depth look at Dickens Great Expectations. I managed to get a credit in English that year but it was on the provision that I not take English in subsequent years. I would have never imagined that I would need to recount elements from this course for any purpose in the future and time has proven me wrong on that count.
One of the traits of Dickens’ work is a detailed build up of the characters involved. He paints Victorian England as a land of misery, at least if you had any ambitions for success. Part of the character description of course includes the always constant frustration and agony caused by not being able to achieve the simple things in life, such as getting a position, finding a partner and raising a family. In a sense Dickens paints society as being economically oppressed and this oppression brings about some interesting human traits and strengths which evolve to make this an interesting story.
Most of the descriptive work and the foundation for the plot is laid in the first half of the play. In the second half of this production things become interesting as the plot begins to unwind. Unlike the novel this story has a happy ending, though not one that might expect.
Should you be studying Dickens for your first year English course this year I heartily recommend this play. Seeing the play will save you all sorts of grief when it comes to comprehending the motives and plot of the story. By to-day’s standard such oppressive character descriptions could lead to a state of depression, but this was Victorian England and everyone was expected to persevere.
This play is directed by Richard Ouzounian, I found that after I had endured the first half the second half made up for the heavy first half of the concert and I was really enjoying the conclusion of the play.
This play is better than the PR that it is associated with. As one person commented Dickens has “Zero” brand power. Indeed if you were like me it would be difficult to get me to come out to see a play by an author which caused me so much grief at University. We are not used to digesting 900 page novels any more preferring something that instead could be digested in a couple of days at the most. How could this work be considered a great work of literature if it throws its readers such a challenge? The answer is it provides a vivid account of life for the average middle class person in Victorian England, and it deals with people who in one way or another are desperate to find their way in the world. There might be some parallels there for the younger generation in present times. It was good for me to re-visit Dickens in the Theatre for it has given me a chance to see Dickens in a fresh light.
The cast stars Justin Goodhand, Carson Nattrass, Alex Poch-Goldin, and Lauren Toffan. Don’t look at this play as having the brand power of say the “Buddy Holly Story” by comparison this play has none. While brand power will get people out to a show often the content of the show cannot live up to the hype. This production is the other way around with a great story hidden in a package that is tough to sell. I think the trick to making this a successful production is in repackaging the promotion of the play in a way that creates some brand power brownies.
Should you decide to go I am sure you will be like me and be patient during the first half and then be spell bound as the second half of the play unravels the plot. This play runs through to December 14th.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews,com