Oliver! is a familiar show to many and upon every viewing, it welcomes you in with the open arms of London.
The show begins with a steady thud of workhouse boys’ feet and the band strikes up with the familiar melody of ‘Food Glorious Food’. It was brilliant to see such a strong and well-rehearsed ensemble. Well done to City of Plymouth Theatre Company for encouraging so many boys to take to the stage, an often difficult demographic to engage with.
In the workhouse we meet Oliver (Jensen Cole-Irving) along with Mr Bumble (Darren Lake) and Widow Corney (Nina Wearne). Darren Lake playing Mr Bumble clearly enjoyed the part and made sure he emphasised every aspect of this almost pantomimic character. His duet with Widow Corney, ‘I Shall Scream’ had the adults and children in the audience roaring with laughter for very different reasons.
The staging was incredibly clever. Oliver! has many scene changes and often the scenes were transforming around the actors while the story was continuing onstage. This made for a smooth performance and gave a sense of the dynamism of London.
The band were slick and successfully reflected the changing of mood occurring onstage. The violinist played beautifully during ‘I think I Better Think it Out Again’. The song has a sense of cheekiness and the violin is a major feature in this. It is almost as if the violin is projecting Fagin’s thought process.
The characters from the underbelly of London show the dangerous world that Oliver is becoming involved in. Bill Sykes (Tony Outterside) was truly frightening and shocked the audience in to silence. Nancy (Charlotte Robinson) stays by his side despite his nasty personality and delivers a stunning performance of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ revealing the tortuous love she feels for Sykes.
All the lead cast members had carefully considered the characters they were portraying and the ensemble captured the different aspects of London life, from vibrant dancing to fear of the world they were trapped in.