Presented by Emul8 Theatre, HAVISHAM offers a fresh perspective of Dickens’ greatest work of Gothic characterisation and invites the audience to share poignant moments from her childhood in rural Kent and as a naive young woman who arrives in London unprepared for the events which gradually consume her.

We speak to writer and performer Heather Alexander about the show which is making its way to The Edge on Thursday 9th May at 7:30 pm.

First things first, tell us a little bit about what audiences can expect with Havisham.

Miss Havisham, the monstrous character from Great Expectations, is something of an enigma. She doesn’t even have a first name. We don’t really know anything about her or why she has become the rageful and vindictive person she is typically portrayed as. Of course, we know she was jilted on her wedding day and used Estella as a form of revenge on men, but not much else. HAVISHAM – the show – creatively fills in these gaps and provides an intriguing origin story and provides insights into her early life. In creating her backstory, Miss Havisham is, at last, given a voice as the audience share flashbacks of poignant and traumatic formative events.

What was it about Miss Havisham that intrigued you so much?

I have always been fascinated by ‘monstrous female characters’ who often appear in stories as irredeemably ‘bad, mad and vengeful’ with no context. I always wanted to know what led them to become this way. The reader is often ask to ‘hate ‘such a character because they represent something evil and terrifying but I believe everyone has a story and reasons for their behaviour.

What are some of the main themes that you explore with Havisham?

Themes of revenge, coercive control and notions of justice and humanity sit at the heart of the show. I wanted to explore how Miss Havisham’s humanity has been exploited and how the cumulative effects of abuse and gaslighting can impact on a young woman.

Why did you feel it was so important to tell her story?

I wanted to know who the human being was behind the iconic monster. I felt it was important to strip away the stereotypical interpretation of the ‘crazy’ Gothic woman and piece together what could have happened in a woman’s young life to have led her to be forever stuck in her trauma. Because that is what we are looking at with Miss Havisham – stuck trauma; what we would now call PTSD.

And finally, why do you think Dickens work is still so relevant today?

Dickens still holds immense appeal because he was a master storyteller. He looked at so many different aspects of society and told the stories of people that are so often overlooked or despised and brought them to life with unprecedented vibrancy, dignity and empathy. Readers today can recognise and relate to living through turbulent times and are able to identify with Dickens’ characters and his themes involving class shifts, as well as the Victorian Era’s new ideas about religion, politics and technology.  

Enjoying wide popularity in his own time and today, Dicken’s work continues to appeal to the simple and the sophisticated. The range, compassion and intelligence of his view of society and its shortcomings enrich his novels and make him one of the greatest forces in literature.


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