Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations is a great undertaking. The play—with two 90-minute acts, two cultures (British and Indian), and two writers—called for two companies and two directors for its mounting. Remy Bumppo Theatre Company and Silk Road Risingof Chicago rose to the challenge, teaming up to stage the mammoth production at Silk Road Rising May 11-July 2.
Nick Sandys, producing artistic director of Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, came across Gupta’s 2011 adaptation of the classic novel in the library. The lengthy 12-character play, which Gupta resets in India, seemed like the perfect opportunity for a coproduction with Silk Road Rising, which highlights the work of Middle Eastern and South Asian writers.
“Remy Bumppo was looking to expand our season, expand our audience, and be more inclusive—all the things that most theatres are doing,” says Sandys, who codirected the play with Lavina Jadhwani.
Gupta transports the classic tale of the orphan Pip and his social-climbing journey from 19th-century England to India in 1861. In her version, Pip travels from Calcutta to Bombay, and the novel’s beloved characters appear in Gupta’s “re-adaptation,” as she calls it, with some discrepancies: The convict Abel Magwitch is an African sailor in the play, and the character of Joe Gargery is a cobbler instead of a blacksmith.
“Tanika elegantly signals that this is not necessarily the Dickens that you are used to,” says Jadhwani about the changes.