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Miss Havisham's Expectations

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Gilded Balloon Teviot
1-27 August

The fringe would not be the same without a new solo show from Linda Marlowe. This year, she and her writer/director Di Sherlock provide a Dickens of a treat in standing up proudly for poor old burnt-out Miss Havisham, Pip's tormentor and sad cob-webbed crone in Great Expectations.

"Norma" they call her, with a nod towards Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, as Marlowe reinvents a crazed chameleon to spite Dickens (did he really "play God" with his female characters?) as well as the oaf "Freddie" who jilted her at the altar all those years ago.

"Please, sir, can I Havisham more?" jeers Bill Sikes on film, counterpart to a retreating visual image of the flirtatious Estella, whom Norma first produces as a headless doll in white taffeta. For this is a theatrical maze of memories and magic in a paper boudoir of a skewiff chandelier, dinner plates and dances, tricks and trances.

Marlowe, taking several leaves out of Dickens' book, conjures snowflakes as well as the fire, riddles on a slate as well as the elixir of youth, transforming herself from vengeful harpy to simpering child, a swirling dervish of desire and distraction, envy and sensuality.

For this is Norma Havisham's farewell performance, an assertion of vital independence in defiance of fictional captivity, a meta-theatrical box of delights that is one of the most original Dickens centenary celebrations imaginable.

Clever design and costumes by Andie Scott, and lighting by Paul Green, help Marlowe's mighty line in fringe fantasia: great riches, indeed, in a little room.


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