Posted: 13 July 2023

Introducing the cast and company of GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Tamasha and The Royal Exchange Theatre are delighted to announce the cast and company for the premiere of our co-production GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Bengal, 1903. Rumours that the British Empire plans to partition Bengal spread and uncertainty is never far away. For one Indian boy destiny is found on the banks of the River Padma before the Goddess Lakshmi. Here a promise is made. Born out of terror or kindness, the choice Pipli makes that night will shape his life forever. With an open heart he navigates unforgiving darkness and unsettling friendships in his search for a better future.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS sees the successful Writer/Director partnership of award-winning playwright Tanika Gupta MBE and Tamasha’s Artistic Director Pooja Ghai reunite in Manchester to stage a fresh adaptation of Gupta’s 2011 take on Dickens rags to riches classic. This time with Ghai directing, this new production is interpreted through a South Asian female-led lens and completes a trilogy of artistic collaborations by the duo exploring colonial history which began with Lions And Tigers (SHAKESPEARES GLOBE, 2017) and most recently with The Empress (RSC, 2023).

The action for this fresh adaptation transfers to Bengal, 1903, during the contentious time of the Indian partition, reframing Dickens’ exploration of 19th century London and placing it firmly in the time of the British Raj. Exploring themes of caste, race and colourism, the story is sharpened further in this version by its interrogation of the British Empire and colonial legacies.

The 12-strong cast is led by the Winner of the UK Theatre Award for Best Supporting Performance for Hobson’s Choice (2019) Esh Alladi as Pipli and Catherine Russell best known for her role as Serena Campbell in BBC’s Holby City, playing Miss Havisham. Followed by Asif Khan (Jagu), Shanaya Rafaat (Krishna/Meneka), Humera Syed (Bilquis), Nav Sidhu (Panda / Public Speaker), Cecilia Appiah (Estella), Stephen Fewell (Jaggeers), Shaban Dar (Wahab / Soldier), Andrew French (Malik), Reginald Edwards (Compeyson /Matthew Pocket) and Giles Cooper (Herbert Pocket / Soldier).


Pooja Ghai, whose relationship with this play has come full-circle says: “This new adaptation of a classic by Tanika Gupta is just pure genius. You’ll get to see the familiar Dickens framework, but it comes with a twist – and all beautifully set against a colonial backdrop of 1903 Bengal, India. I’ve been excited about this play ever since I was an actor (playing Mrs Gargery) in the original production. And now, 12 years later, I’m beyond thrilled to be coming back to it as the Director.”

Tanika Gupta says: “I have always deeply admired Dickens’ classic tale of a boy who goes from rags to riches and then back again. This story works well when young Indian men were being educated by the British Raj to become ’English in manners’ to help administer the colony. The issues of class, caste and race are also easily interchangeable, and I love the timeless nature of the story, the idea that our destiny can turn on a chance encounter and a kind deed.”


Written by Charles Dickens

Adapted by Tanika Gupta

Director Pooja Ghai

Designer Rosa Maggiora

Lighting Designer Joshua Carr

Composer and Sound Designer Arun Ghosh

Fight Director/Intimacy Director RC Annie

Assistant Director (Birkbeck) Amara Heyland-Morrin

Casting Hannah Miller CDG

GREAT EXPECTATIONS opens at The Royal Exchange Theatre from 8 September until 7 October. Booking now