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all for One Brings Great Expectations to Life

Charles Dickens has written some of the most beloved and timeless novels ever put to page. His iconic characters have become a part of our shared experience, and certainly he has put his special mark on Christmas. This month one of his most memorable characters, Pip, and his story as it plays out in Great Expectations comes to the ArtsLab black box thanks to our friends at all for One productions.

Lauren Nichols, artistic director at all for One and director of Great Expectations, has a special place in her heart for Victorian literature and drama – and for this author in particular.

“I am an enormous fan of Charles Dickens and loved reading his novels,” Nichols said. “I’ve read them all and some I’ve read multiple times. I read this play a couple of years ago, and I thought Gale Childs Daly did a remarkable job with it, really distilling the story and using almost exclusively Dickens’s own words to do it. Great Expectations is not my favorite of his novels. In fact it’s several places down the list and not one I’d necessarily re-read for fun. But this has such a beautiful narrative.”

Although not as associated with Christmas as the Dickens classic which brought Scrooge into our lives, Nichols does point out that the story opens on Christmas Eve and that are other ways we feel the spirit of Christmas with Great Expectations and other Dickens stories.

Lauren Nichols

“Dickens has become synonymous with Christmas,” Nichols said. “The language and the costumes give a nice, cozy feeling, and the color palette plays into that as well. In some places we’ve enhanced the Christmas elements.”

Pip’s own story also brings to the show themes which strike close to home during the holidays, Nichols noted.

“It’s very much about family and loyalty, and those are things that come into play during the Christmas season. Pip tries to get away from his family identity, and it’s the wrong decision.”

With a cast of eight (one actor playing Pip, two actresses handling all the female roles, and five actors handling the male roles), Nichols said the story has a fluidity that makes the longish production feel very brisk, like no time has passed. But although she loves the script, she noted that there were a few challenges that she had to figure out on her own with the help of her cast and crew.

“We’ve had to solve a lot of problems, and the script doesn’t give us a lot of help in solving. How do we create a fireplace where Miss Havisham sets herself on fire? How do we create a wedding cake that will work on the stage? But it was fun doing it like a puzzle, to find solutions that were visually clever but easy to execute. I love problem solving, and it’s a great way to build the cast into a team.”

Nichols hopes audiences of most ages (small children might not be up for it just yet) will come share her love of Dickens and his remarkable characters.

“It’s definitely a show the whole family can enjoy. It’s long enough that the youngest members of the family might not be ready for it. It’s not A Christmas Carol. But it’s a very enjoyable piece of theatre. It’s fun to experience and should generate some great conversation, which is what we always hope to do.”

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