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Esh Alladi (Great Expectations, Royal Exchange Manchester)

Royal Exchange Manchester and Tamasha to co-produce this retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story 'Great Expectations.' Adapted by Tanika Gupta, and directed by Pooja Ghai, the story focuses on 1903 as the British Empire aims to partition Bengal. We follow Pipli (Esh Alladi) as he navigates unforgiving darkness and unsettling friendships in his search for a better future. We took the opportunity to chat with Esh to tell us more about this production.

Q) Can you tell us a little bit more about this production?

This is a brand new adaptation by Tanika Gupta with a 12-strong amazing cast directed by the wonderful Pooja Ghai. We will transport you to Rajshahi, North India, at the turn of the 20th Century in the height of the British Empire. This is where we meet Pipli, a poor, young, orphan boy and follow his rise from rags to riches and back to rags meeting many of the iconic Dickensian characters along the way.

Q) This re-imagining of ‘Great Expectations’ takes on a completely different interpretation through the exploration of Bengal in 1903. Why do you think it is important for these classics to be told through a different lens?

Tanika has worked her magic with this adaptation, keeping all the book's heart, humor, and thrilling pace intact. But what's really special is how this unique perspective shines a spotlight on the lasting effects of Colonialism. This fresh take on a classic not only makes history and politics more accessible, but it also illuminates the lives and tales that haven't gotten their fair share of representation on the stage.

Q) What are you hoping that audiences take away from this production?

I really want people to be swept away by this epic story and also moved and entertained by these wonderfully drawn characters. We also open the door to a history and communities that I hadn’t even heard of before working on this production so if people leave the theatre wanting to know more then we have done our job.

Q) How has it been getting to know your character and settling into the role as ‘Pipli’?

It’s been just over a week in rehearsals and I am really enjoying deep diving into this role. I think anyone who has ever felt like an outsider can identify with Pipli. He has a burning desire to make something of his life, to make his life filled with meaning and love. He’s very easy to love but also you want to shake some sense into him!

Q) How has the creative process been so far?

Right now, we're in that wild and wonderful phase where we're tossing all kinds of ideas into the mix and there's no limit to our creativity. As we move forward, things will start falling into place. I like to think of it as adjusting a camera's focus – we're turning the knob bit by bit until everything snaps into clear view. Our cast and production crew are total gems. They've got humour and joy for days, and Pooja is leading the charge with grace and an infectious openness. I’m a lucky guy to be a part of this production.

Great Expectations runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester from 8th September to 7th October. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


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