Certain things in life are inevitable. Death and taxes, said Benjamin Franklin, but he might have added the certainty that one day Ray Winstone would loom out of a misty fen to scare the shit out of Pip in a Christmas production of Great Expectations. The move from being a prisoner mashing someone’s head with a sock full of snooker balls in Scum to being an escaped prisoner (Magwitch) threatening to cut out Pip’s throat allows Ray to show us his full range. Luckily for him, Pip is a blacksmith’s boy and well-placed to help file off some inconvenient fetters (which in true Scum-style immediately become a very convenient cosh). Alas to no avail as Magwitch, after stopping to wrestle another ruffian, is soon hauled off by the local soldiery.
Pip is not short of other grotesques in his life however, a number soon added to by his summons to the house of eccentric toff Miss Havisham. The reassuring familiarity of Sexy Beast Winstone as a hooligan is more than balanced by the shock of Gillian Anderson popping up playing Miss H. It seems a mere eye-blink ago that she was the sexy, sceptical Scully in the X-files and an object of fantasy for adolescent boys everywhere. How can she now be the ghostly jiltee with the cobwebby wedding cake? Clearly celebs age faster than the rest of us. It’s why they need all that plastic surgery and personal training. It does suggest some interesting possibilities though; I’m already looking forward to next year’s TV with Justin Beiber taking over as Grandpa in my Pocket.
Still, Gilly is a great, great Miss H, tempting Pip with dreams beyond his blacksmithing station and chicks who are out of his league. The chick in question is the sultry Estella, groomed to be Miss Havisham’s revenge on the world of men, but who can’t quite seem to bring herself to be a complete bitch to Pip. Indeed she seems impressed at his facility with his fists, leaving him dreamy-eyed and less suited than ever to a lifetime of hanging out with the unreconstructed Orlick at the local forge. For all her smouldering looks and cruel toying though, one doesn’t quite buy Estella as a heartbreaker. Maybe it’s because she has the bad luck to have so many scenes with Miss Havisham. No amount of dusty drawing rooms, grey fright wigs and mouldering wedding cakes is ever going to make you look at anyone else when Gillian Anderson is on the screen.
More convincing is Joe Gargery (Shaun Dooley), Pip’s brother-in-law and father figure. While he is the only kindly character to be seen he is never allowed to slide into the mawkishly sentimental, hen-pecked Joe of so many other versions (including Dickens’ own).
But Joe’s indulgence of Pip’s airs and graces is about to be tested as Episode 1 draws to a close. The now more grown-up Pip’s deliverance from the Fens arrives in the form of the sinister Mr Jaggers bringing news of a lavish (though anonymous) bequest. Though Joe glowers from between his lavish sideburns, before you can say, ‘London’, Pip is sporting a dodgy suit, and an even dodgier accent to go off and tug his forelock to Miss Havisham for her presumed generosity. It can’t be destined to go well but for now, with a production this good, we can all have great expectations.
Posted by Dr Crane