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Great Expectations Begins this Weekend on BBC One - Filmed in Shrewsbury!
22 Mar 2023

The much anticipated TV series Great Expectations starring Olivia Colman which was partly filmed in Shrewsbury last year, airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer this Sunday, March 26th at 9pm. Katy Rink looks forward to making up her own mind - after reading some shaky early reviews. 

Finally, it's here! We've waited so long to see Great Expectations on TV - having been beside ourselves with excitement in Shrewsbury when the BBC crews came to film some of the London street scenes in our town back in May last year. Was Olivia Colman really here? Well, we're all about to find out.

The six-part series airs this Sunday on BBC One at 9pm - and is set to divide opinion with a reviewer from the Evening Standard giving it only half a star, describing Steven Knight's screenplay as a 'hollowing out' of Dickens' original text. She does grouchily admit that Colman's performance is 'brilliantly unsettling' and says she is in her element as Miss Havisham and also credits Fionn Whitehead's Pip as 'creditable', but it's an inauspicious beginning for this latest version of the classic tale. Anita Singh, reviewing for The Telegraph, gives three stars, dubbing Knight's adaptation 'Peaky Expectations' owing to its use of foul language and marked departure from Dickens' lines but concedes that it does at least bring the story vividly to life. 

Great Expectations poster

BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic

And it's Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight who appears to be taking most of the flak from the critics, for his creative presentation of some of the grimmer aspects of Victorian life in the new series, which is executive produced by Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott. Variety describes it as 'dimly lit and grimly violent'. Knight may not be unduly concerned - he's got plenty of work on with a second season of SAS Rogue Heroes, a new series of This Town and A Thousand Blows, plus another season of Taboo

We're looking forward to making our own minds up this weekend and to seeing Shrewsbury on TV. It was wonderful watching the BBC crews in action last May as they turned St John's Hill, the Council House Gateway and St Mary's Water Lane into Dickensian street scenes. The novel itself is set in Kent and London, so Shrewsbury streets will likely masquerade as fine London Georgian terraces. 

BBC crews working at St Mary's Water Gate

The BBC swept in overnight to cover up modern street furniture and road signs, importing gravel and even animal dung to create a Victorian vibe. The cast and crew worked in pouring rain to get the scenes finished, importing horses and carriages into the centre of town and using a giant screen to hide Shrewsbury Market Hall's modern clocktower. Berwick House just outside Shrewsbury had apparently also been considered as a possible location for Miss Havisham's house. 

The filming was part of a drive by newly formed Film Shropshire to attract location finders to the county. The BBC series has already shone a light on Shrewsbury prompting a recent visit and write-up by Sunday Times journalist James Stewart who sung the praises of our 'overlooked market town'. 

Great Expectations poster

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham, Fionn Whitehead as Pip and Shalom Brune-Franklin as Estella in the new BBC One/FX series of Great Expectations. Credit BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic

Don't be put off by early reviews. A fast and loose treatment of the original text might equate to a creatively brilliant retelling, more suited to modern audiences and with interesting things to say about the story, recontextualised for modern times - we'll reserve our judgement until we see it for ourselves! Don't forget to set the recorder - Oops, I meant to say, find it on iPlayer. See what I did there?

Great Expectations filming
council house courtyard
crew in action
filming in the rain
street junk
actor in doorway