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A Twist in the Tale - In2Theatre's Oliver Twist

The cast of In2Theatre's Oliver Twist at the Bear Pit Theatre.

Oliver Twist adapted by Tony Peters, an In2Theatre production, The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, playing for the public again on Saturday 1 July, matinee and evening performances.

Review by Ann Evans

Last night a friend and I headed along to The Bear Pit Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see In2Theatre’s production of Oliver Twist - the Charles Dicken’s classic novel adapted by Tony Peters. Tony runs the amateur dramatic company In2Theatre whose members are adults with learning disabilities – not that that hindered anything they did.

With drinks in hand, we headed for our seats in the Round, only to realise we’d actually wandered through the bustling and jovial bar down at the old Bull and Bush in Victorian London.

“Welcome to the Old Bull and Bush,” someone greeted us, as they raised their tankards and continued bantering with their friends. Gradually as every seat in the auditorium was claimed, we were introduced to these characters from Dickens’ novel – the good, the cunning and the downright cruel!

Meet Oliver Twist

They were all in good spirits, dressed in their working garb that had a certain stylish look to it. Nowadays, people would call it Steampunk, and as the beer flowed, we got to hear the tale of a little boy named Oliver Twist.

Firstly, however, the pub’s regulars were in the mood for a rousing sing-song of some good old Music Hall favourites. And before we knew it, the audience were caught up in the atmosphere of this London pub and singing along with the Artful Dodger, Fagin, Bill Sykes, Mr Bumble from the workhouse and the other locals…“Come, come, come and make eyes at me down at the old Bull and Bush. Come, come, drink some port wine with me down at the old Bull and Bush….”

We were well led into all the songs of the evening by the energetic personality of Florrie Ford, a well-known music hall singer of the day. Emma Mason took on this role with gusto and confidence, and an excellent singing voice. Throughout the performance Emma was a strong force behind the many songs of the evening.

To those in the audience who didn’t know, the part of Oliver Twist was played by a life-sized puppet, with relevant characters bringing him to life as the story progressed. And there were some touching moments throughout, even though little Oliver was just a puppet, the cast gave him the heart and soul of a real little orphaned boy.

Written and directed by Tony Peters, he did an excellent job in re-telling an abridged version of Dickens’ story – and casting the parts perfectly. And Steampunk-Hats off to every member of the cast – who were all on stage throughout the whole performance, staying in character the whole time, delivering their lines brilliantly, never missing a cue and entertaining the crowd with their acting and their singing skills.

This was an absolutely joyful show, the audience had smiles on their faces throughout. The actors were clearly having fun and oozed with confidence and personality.

Every single one of the actors did wonderfully well, but special mention must go to Ruth Daniell as the Artful Dodger, who really brought this cunning character to life in a loud and lively manner that you couldn’t help but love.

Also Fagin, played by Mike Jenner Jones – what a fabulous Fagin he was. Full of life and fun and personality. Bruno Mason took on the role of Mr Bumble from the workhouse with real style and presence, and Bill Sykes played by Connor Jackson successfully brought the menace needed for that role.

Great portrayals of the female characters too from Dickens’ novel – Mrs Bedwin (Anna Williams) and Nancy (Jenny Oatley) who brought tenderness and caring to the story.

The In2Theatre company worked closely together to create the appropriate atmosphere of each scene, from the misery of the workhouse, the cheekiness of the pickpocketing scene to the drama of Nancy’s death at the hands of Bill Sykes.

And as the whole story was being narrated from the old Bull and Bush pub, there was always time to break off for another sing-song with Mhairi Peters on piano.

Usually, Florrie Ford (Emma Mason) would burst into song, encouraging everyone to sing along. Fagin, Mr Bumble and the entire ensemble plus the audience enjoyed such hits from times gone by as Dear Old Pals, Jolly Old Pals; Daisy Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do; Any old Iron; and Boiled Beef and Carrots.

Altogether a happy, successful show delivered in a very professional manner - thoroughly enjoyable! Congratulations to the whole team - the actors, backstage crew, technical crew on sound and lighting, costume and prop making and the volunteers who all worked together as a well-oiled Steampunk-style team!

Tickets for Saturday 1 July matinee and evening: or call the Box Office 01789 333935.


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