Ray Winstone, Gillian Anderson, David Suchet and Douglas Booth star in Sarah Phelps’s bold new adaptation of Great Expectations, which forms the centrepiece of the BBC’s celebration of Charles Dickens as we approach the bicentenary of his birth, in 2012.
On a cold winter’s day, an 11-year-old orphan, Pip, runs into an escaped convict on the marshes near his home. The convict, Magwitch, orders the boy to steal a file from his Uncle Joe’s forge to remove his shackles. The terrified Pip returns with the file and some food – and this innocent act of kindness is set to have far-reaching consequences for them both.
Meanwhile, Miss Havisham, the reclusive owner of grand Satis House, has requested a boy be sent to her; Pip is to be a playmate to her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham encourages Pip to believe that he might be destined for a future beyond the marshes, a future linked to that of beautiful Estella.
Pip’s hopes are dashed, though, when Miss Havisham pays for him to be apprenticed to Joe as a blacksmith; it seems his dreams of greater things were unfounded. At first Pip struggles to come to terms with a life in the forge but, eventually, he accepts this as his fate. However, everything changes when a lawyer from London, Jaggers, makes a surprise visit. He informs the now adult Pip that he is a young man of great expectations and will inherit a fortune when he turns 21. There is one condition. Pip must not enquire into the identity of his benefactor; this will remain secret until that person chooses to reveal themselves.
In the meantime Jaggers is his guardian. Pip sets out for London leaving all he knows behind to pursue his new life, with his heart set on seeing Estella again.
The cast list includes Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham; David Suchet as Jaggers; Ray Winstone as Abel Magwitch; Douglas Booth as Pip; Mark Addya s Pumblechook; Claire Rushbrook as Mrs Joe Gargery; Vanessa Kirby as Estella; Paul Rhys as Compeyson; Paul Ritter as Wemmick; Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket; Jack Roth as Orlick and Frances Barber as Mrs Brandley.
Tuesday 27 December