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Like Oliver, you'll be wanting more - Oliver Twist at the Albany Theatre

The cast of Oliver Twist - Photograph by David Court

Oliver Twist at The Albany Theatre, Coventry, 9 to 31 December 2023

Review by David Court

 

In response to the well-intentioned but ultimately hated and feared ‘Poor Law’ of 1834, ‘Oliver Twist’ by Dickens – Charles’s second novel - was published in serial form in ‘Bentley’s Miscellany’ between 1837 and 1839. Many of course will know the work from Lionel Bart’s famous 1960 musical, adapted in 1968 for the big screen.


‘Oliver Twist’ is running all the way up until the end of the year, and for those more used to the musical, the sight of adults playing all of the roles may come across as disconcerting. However, it’s soon apparent that we’re in particularly safe hands as the handful of cast members throw themselves into a variety of roles, all sufficiently varied and different that you’re never distracted by the same face playing them. Even Bull’s-eye, brute Bill Sikes’s Bull Terrier, is played by a multitude of different cast members at various parts of the story. It’s refreshing to see that every single member of the talented ensemble cast gets the chance to shine.


Photo courtesy of The Albany Theatre.


For those of you who don’t know what the Dickens the plot of ‘Oliver Twist’ is about, it follows the titular urchin from his birth in the grubby surroundings of a workhouse through to his misadventures with a ragged gang of Cockney pickpockets and their nefarious crime-boss Fagin. The streets of London are no place for a young boy, and it turns out that genuinely kind people are very rare – with almost every character desperately looking out for themselves, even at the expense of others.

The cast of Oliver Twist - Photograph by David Court

It feels unfair to bring attention to any of the particular performances over those of others, but I must mention Fagin. Less human and more most of the deadly sins distilled and poured into a crooked human shape, he’s an amazing antagonist brought to life by actor Paul Nolan – all winsome smiles and fake comfort when we first meet him, but quickly exposed as a Machiavellian amoral fiend. The stage buzzes when he’s on it, the audience held in stunned silence.


If this story all sounds thoroughly miserable and a grim way to spend the build up to Christmas, it’s worth remembering that Dickens was no stranger to humour – in ‘Oliver Twist’ much of this is achieved through the repugnant Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, two despicable characters who are comically both as evil as they are incompetent in their machinations.


Despite the fact it’s not based on the musical, there’s no shortage of tuneage to accompany the evening's proceedings. The cast are in fine vocal form, and a fair few Christmas Carols make a festive appearance.


Photo courtesy of The Albany Theatre.


A particularly nice touch is the headings of (variants) of the appropriate chapter names projected onto the set; not visible enough to distract from what is happening on stage, but a nice connection to the source material. The stage work is thoroughly excellent, by the way, with simplistic yet effective set design leaving us in no doubt as to where we are. Judicious use of a smoke machine is also used to excellent effect.


The story of poverty and the desperation of people on life’s lower rung is as prescient as ever, but ‘Oliver Twist’ is an optimistic tale of salvation. It’s a simple tale where the bad guys get what’s coming to them (managed in a particularly effective way on stage), but sometimes the good suffer too. It’s a flawless retelling of a classic, and you should consider yourself lucky if you get a ticket.


‘Oliver Twist’ runs right up until the end of 2023, and tickets are available here. The show’s programme can be read here.

2 comentários


Convidado:
15 de dez. de 2023

This show is a ”must see“for Christmas entertainment 🎭! Fabulous talented cast who cleverly portrayed the storyline of that well loved Oliver classic, with a Christmas vibe. The staging, sound, special effects and lighting transport you to Victorian London and bring alive the stark contrast between poverty and wealth. Congratulations to the cast and production team! You nailed it!!🎭

Curtir

Convidado:
15 de dez. de 2023

What a wonderful show. Great cast, terrific staging and lighting and a great take on a timeless classic story. I so enjoyed it and would recommend a visit.

Curtir
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