Atmosphere and darkness from ExploreTheArch

Great Expectations
Great Expectations

ExploreTheArch, East Sussex’s experimental theatre company, is heading up St Leonards’ #ATownExploresABook18 festival this Easter with a chilling gothic new production.

The House Of The Identity Of Things is inspired by Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations.

With mud flying forth and raging torture of a tar-dosing kind, the expressionist work foregrounds the angry red-raw woman who raises Dickens’ hero, Pip. The company does not flinch from hurling forth the complexities a young person faces in living with an adult who is hurting and, as the woman’s more wealthy mirror Miss Havisham asserts, broken.

Set in the oozing marsh and a seeming rural idyll, the work feels contemporary and relevant. While the blacksmith in the forge, depicted through live music composed by Oliver Cherer and Vladimir Miller, is fashioning a warm steady existence, the other characters align with the turbulent, frenzied elements.

The character utterly thrown out of his environment is the desperate chained convict who threatens Pip in a terrifying encounter if not supplied with food and file.

In contrast to the characters’ raw shrieks of pain, the audience is offered nuanced, isolated moments of reflection on these childhood traumas located in Pip’s bedroom, the play a promenade performance over two floors at the company’s venue Archer Lodge in St Leonards.

ExploreTheArch’s Gail Borrow said: “Exquisite, tiny dead-of-night sounds comprise a gentle cacophony of ebbing reflections, prompted by the goblin who cries at the window, on things not quite understood but accepted by Pip to achieve an identity of things. Instruments from pianos to Victorian organs and experimental object-instruments join a range of visual registers including vintage slide projectors and film footage on contemporary domestic screen technology.

Synthesising Dickens’ hero’s experiences as a seven year old and the moment ten years later, on the eve of his flight from his place of birth, the production comprises a rite of passage, Pip leaving to begin a new urban adult life at the end of the play, to fashion new existence and identity away from his troubled marshland upbringing.”

Writing weekly serialised version of the novel in 1860/61, Dickens undoubtedly pumped up the volume on the Victorian favourites of social aspirations, windfall wealth and love as the catalyst for Pip’s departure to London but setting those aside, ExploreTheArch reaches to the uneasy, contradictory relationship between the human and the rural environment as the trigger that propels young adults away from rural areas to the smoke. The production opens on Good Friday, March 30, and runs for two weeks. Tickets, info and availability: explorethearch.com/identity and for cash ticket sales, no booking fee, visit The Bookkeeper Bookshop, 1A Kings Road, St Leonards, TN37 6EA, open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm. Venue directions: explorethearch.com/find.