The iconic characters of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations came to life on stage at the Wyvern last night in an entirely new way.

Great Expectations is the story of young orphan Pip, raised by his sister and her blacksmith husband, his encounter with an escaped convict and later, with the sinister Miss Havisham in her perpetual wedding gown, hidden away in the dark.

Pip’s yearning to escape his working class roots and to win the hand of cold, brittle Estella, leads him away from his family – but his great expectations do not play out as he expected.

In an audacious move, Swindon company TS Theatre uses a vintage circus aesthetic, turning the stage into a kind of performing ring, wily lawyer Jaggers into a scarlet-coated ring-master, while Pip, Estella and the rest have the painted white faces of clowns or mime artists.

Perhaps this presentation served to indicate each character in the tale of class, or doomed love playing a role, or to heighten the blend of comedy and tragedy making up this story.

Pip is played by two actors – first Ben Langcaster as young Pip, while Olly Webb plays adult Pip, who narrates the story of his youth. Jake Lennox gives a notable and convincing performance, playing Pip’s delightful friend Herbert Pocket and Robert Felstead captures the warmth and humour of the blacksmith Joe Gargery.

Laura James as Miss Havisham, plays the role with gusto, heightening the madness gripping the broken-hearted jilted bride, and Amy Westwood succeeds in portraying both hard-handed Mrs Joe and kind-hearted Biddy.

While the purpose of the circus theme is never entirely clear, it is a visually appealing style. This is an ambitious production – a well-loved story, a large cast and a complex story – brought together successfully by director Peter Hynds. - Sarah Singleton