“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Though this well-known paradox opens another of Charles Dickens’ novels, the line could also describe Great Expectations. Though Pip had a hard life, he also had some good moments, all of which will be displayed in the BJU Classic Players’ production Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 in Rodeheaver Auditorium.
Charles Dickens—one of the most influential authors of the 19th century—is known for writing about the perils of living in Victorian London. The majority of his novels were published serially in a weekly periodical, including Great Expectations, and addressed the problems of society. Dickens had firsthand experience with many of these issues. For example, his father was put into debtors’ prison when Dickens was only 12, necessitating Dickens being pulled from school to work in a factory to support the family. He later became a journalist and put his knowledge of the London underbelly to use in both his newspaper articles and his novels.
When we meet the protagonist of Great Expectations, he tells us his name is Philip Pirrip, but everyone calls him Pip. We find him in a graveyard where he’s contemplating the gravestones of his deceased parents and younger siblings. Suddenly, a stranger appears in the fog and threatens young Pip. What follows is a twisted tale of betrayal, where more events are connected than we think and not all is as it seems. As Pip comes of age, he learns to live up to the expectations society has for him, and they are great indeed.
The 2019 production is the third time a stage adaptation of Dickens’ novel has been performed at BJU. What makes this year’s production unique is the casting; director Ron Pyle has cast more students than faculty or staff. “This production provided a great opportunity to get our students involved onstage and off,” Pyle said. “Many of the roles were age-appropriate for students, and any time I have a chance to cast a student in a production I want to give someone that opportunity. Since I teach in the theatre department, I am particularly pleased that we have ten theatre majors or minors on stage and four in key roles backstage.”
Read the SMART guide (PDF) for more information about the author, the ending (Did you know Dickens wrote more than one?), the plot and more.