Consider yourself at home
Published: 15 Nov 2012 09:300 comments
During rehearsals, director Tim Wilcock sums up the story: "Oliver has been with us as a musical for over 40 years now and, whilst it takes a few artistic liberties with Dickens' second published novel of 1838, it stays largely true to the book's themes - exploring social deprivation, exploitation and misanthropy.
Dickens' sense of satire shines through continually - witness the overly-plump Bumbles dishing out nutritiously valueless gruel to half-starved waifs at the orphanage and his use of onomatopoeic names for characters. His astute (if at times unsubtle) symbolism also hits the mark, using the Bumbles (again) and the Sowerberrys to convey his concerns that many marriages were deeply troubled and unhappy.
And throughout, there is a thinly disguised attack on poverty and its causes - in this case it's the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which turned workhouses into institutions that only the most desperate would ever enter.
Oliver is transported from the squalor of the workhouse to the drudgery and abuse of the undertakers and is sheltered by Fagin and the Artful Dodger when he runs away.
Oliver soon finds he has swapped one life of hardship for another when he realises he will be forced to steal in order to earn his keep.
When a robbery goes wrong he finds himself arrested before he is taken in by Mr Brownlow.
However, Fagin and the evil Bill Sykes are not about to let him escape so easily and use Nancy to kidnap Oliver and bring him back.
An attack of conscience later leads Nancy to return Oliver to Mr Brownlow and she is murdered by Sykes who is later tracked down and shot. Oliver is reunited with Mr Brownlow and the musical at least ends happily!
With its well-known, very sing able tunes, Oliver is great entertainment. Oliver's innocence, kindness and air of refinement pierce the gloom like a beacon in a blackout, giving us something to cling to - the hope that, however bad the circumstances we're in, we can remain true to ourselves and that luck will one day favour us, as it clearly did Oliver."
Oliver was chosen as the production this year by the cast of last year's show "Ebenezer" and many of the same young people are involved in bringing this hugely popular show to life on stage at the Eastgate Theatre.
It is also 20 years since Tweed Theatre first performed Oliver and some of the original cast are now working backstage managing costumes and props!
The old saying "Never work with children or animals" is disregarded as Oliver comprises a cast of 40 - all aged under 18, plus a very friendly dog who takes the part of Bullseye!
Katharine Mathison who produced Calendar Girls gave her thoughts on the show: "Having been watching rehearsals from the beginning the talent on display is amazing. Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney (Ben Durkin and Lauren Hogg) have a great rapport and inject real comedy into their roles.
The Sowerberry's (Fergus Lawrie and Kay McAllister) are also full of comedic delight and although these characters only appear in two scenes, the contrast between their comedy and the cruelty displayed towards Oliver (Jack Dickson) is perfectly captured.
Oliver's solo performances have brought a tear to the eyes of many of the crew involved in the show while the Artful Dodger (Dominic Davies) is a proper East End gem. Fagin (Will Rowse) is as slimy and avaricious as can be and provides a counterpoint to Nancy (Caitlin Morris) who demonstrates raw emotion and has the ability to really belt out a tune as well as conveying the love she has for Bill Sykes (Callum Forman) who is truly terrifying at times.
Bullseye (played by Toby Thomas) is perhaps not as ugly or vicious as the one in the film but has the benefit of being good with children!"
The show runs from December 6-8 at 6.30pm with a matinee on Saturday, December 8 at 2.30pm.