So you think you know Great Expectations' Miss Havisham? Think again!
Answers to questions that are normally only hinted at.
Emulat8 Theatre brings an extremely bold and fresh new viewpoint to an iconic Dickens' character, who vows revenge on all mankind after being abandoned on her wedding day. In this version, we never get to see Pip or her ward Estelle, with the focus on her being forced to confront her past. How did she become the bitter, twisted person we have come to know so well? This is the question that the writer and performer of Havisham herself, Heather Alexander, asks. She, under the insightful direction of Dominique Gerrard, gets answers to the questions that are normally only hinted at.
Through Alexander's complete immersion in this complex character, we see Havisham growing up in a world led by men that is at times confusing for the young girl as she experiences church, religion, literature and more whilst trying to find her place. With no mother to look after her, Alexander painstakingly shifts between the positively joyful young woman with limitless hope, due to inherit Sallis House, to the cold-hearted mistress we see in the original novel. Doing it this way highlights the fragile state Havisham has been left in, not only making all who see it understand why she becomes the way she is, but it gives the perfect amount of room to feel every single emotion that she feels, as the reflections become more and more difficult to handle. Alexander conveys these difficult emotions expertly without losing the essence of what Dickens originally created - especially through simple use of white sheets, wooden boxes and a book or two indicating her room, lost in her fantasy world, and her physicality as she shifts between a scared young girl trying to hide as she questions what being bad is and the stillness of a woman who is shut down emotionally.
A particular highlight is the symbolism of Havisham's trauma in the Greek myth Medusa, which the young version of our heroine reads about, believing her an angel and drawing her for school homework. Medusa in the original myth was taken advantage of by a sea god and was unjustly punished for being 'a bad person', as she slept with him (the reality was she was raped). The transition between Havisham's journey of being in love with Compeyson, to being taken advantage of by him again and again is so heartbreaking that she in turn becomes her own version of Medusa. A horrifying reality, yes, but one that Alexander's sterling performance emphasizes, in turn encourages everyone to be on her side, empowering us to empathize in catharsis. This is a hard skill to achieve, but Alexander seems to unlock her own demons in Havisham, as well as her own angelic side and is a breathtaking sight to behold on stage.
Powerful, tense, heartbreaking.