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Oliver! Jr

by on 5 May 2023

Menace and Morrrrre !

Oliver! Jr

by Lionel Bart

Dramacube Productions, Twickenham Purple Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 6th May*

Review by Gill Martin

Rollicking, rumbustious, raucous one minute – plaintive, powerful with plenty of pathos the next.

That’s the mood of Oliver! Jr now rocking the stage of the Hampton Hill Theatre over a momentous weekend … with only the minor distraction of a coronation.

Four shows a day this weekend will offer a welcome break from all the pomp and pageantry as Charles Dickens’ classic tale comes to life with a Dramacube production, directed by Matthew Bunn, featuring teenage casts bursting with talent and enthusiasm.

All our favourite characters are there: skinny orphan Oliver (Mimi Worsley) begging for more food at the workhouse; cheeky Artful Dodger (Lili Ram); miserly Fagin (Giacomo Frasson); evil Bill Sykes (Harry North), backed by a thirty strong cast belting out those memorable Lionel Bart numbers, such as Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself and Oom-Pah-Pah.

This marvellous musical premiered in the West End in 1960, garnered prestige awards, morphed into a film in 1968 shot down the road at Shepperton Studios and won an Academy Award.  The stage musical has been performed around the world from Australia to Estonia, Singapore to Syria.

Now it’s the turn of Hampton Hill with young casts of the Broadway Junior that bring an electric energy and even acrobatics to their version of the musical.   

I was among the appreciative audience watching the Twickenham Purple Cast, whose vigour and vim was infectious.  The foot-tapping music and ensemble choreography (Rory Cubbin and Heather Stockwell) were a delight.

The backdrop was a grim, grey brick edifice of a Victorian workhouse (set design by Hannah Calarco) where grimy malnourished orphans in rags (costume design by Jo Scholes) were fed on nothing but gruel.   No McDonald’s for them.

Oliver, who has the temerity to ask for more, finds himself apprenticed to an undertakers and forced to sleep in a coffin before he escapes to London.  Alone and penniless he is ‘rescued’ by the Artful Dodger who enlists him to Fagin’s band of petty thieves.  Cue Pick a Pocket or Two.

The cast is in fine voice and the stand-out performance comes from the feisty Nancy (Leila Simpson) whose strong, confident vocals belie her age.   She is a talent to watch.  Her sister Scarlett, who performs a duet as Bet, also offers a fine performance.

There is menace too, thanks to the sinister Sykes.  As befits the seedier side of Victorian London a blood curdling murder most foul is committed in a dark alley.  The victim?  That would be a plot spoiler.   

Gill Martin, May 2023

Photography by Simone Germaine Photography 

* Until 7th May for other casts.

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