Review: Oliver Twist, East Riding Theatre, Beverley

Gabriel Winter as Bill Sikes and Annie Kirkman as Nancy
Gabriel Winter as Bill Sikes and Annie Kirkman as Nancy

More please from director Mike Friend and assitant director Adrian Rawlins – their new take on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is fabulous.

It has a touch of everything – past, present and future like another Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol.

The core of the production remains true to the original book – an orphan boy, brought up in a workhouse, is sold to a funeral director, runs away to London and falls in with thief-chief Fagin and his gang of light-fingered children led by the Dodger.

He is rescued by a gent but returned to the gang by Nancy – the girlfriend of brutal burgler and Fagin’s instrument Bill Sikes.

There is a happy ending but not before murder and violence has been done. This is dark Christams fare which does not shy away from the brutality and poverty at the heart of the story.

It has been given a modern twist – it is, to use the modern parlance, ‘street’. Fagin’s gang are all young women, Sikes is a thug who could have come from a Guy Ritchie movie and Dodger would not be out of place in EastEnders.

The Three Cripples – Fagin and Sike’s pub meeting place, is a night club and the villains and police carry guns.

The production opens in what could be any city in the world now or in the future – and to Parisian street music.

But, the songs used for one pub scene are those of the music hall – Daisy, Daisy, Down at the Old Bull and Bush and Knees Up Mother Brown included.

The rabbit warren of a set is magnificent and shrouded in a Victorian smog throughout – which gives the production lots of atmosphere.

The cast is a mix of professionals and amateur actors and are superb throughout.

Clive Kneller is a nervy, edgy Fagin, Gabriel Winter a menacing, threatening presence as Bill Sikes and David Tute lightens the mood as a wheeler-dealer Dodger.

Conor Murphy and Alfie Fox share the role of Oliver and we saw Conor’s confident yet boyish orphan.

Richard Avery is the fatherly Brownlow and Annie Kirkman a fragile but brave Nancy whose actions cost her her life.

It is also an ensemble piece with all the actors joining in the music, song and dance.

The production shows how timeless Dickens’ writing is and how it still speaks to a modern audience.

This piece is compelling, moving and, ocassionally, funny. In Oliver’s immortal words – I want some more.

Performance times: Tuesday Decemeber 15 at 1.30pm and 7.30pm; Wednesday December 16 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm; Thursday December 17 and Friday December 18 at 7.30pm; Saturday December 19 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm; Sunday December 20 at 2.30pm; Tuesday December 22 and Wednesday December 23 at 7.30pm; Thursday December 24 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm; Saturday December 26 at 2.30pm; Sunday December 27 at 2,30pm and 7.30pm; Tuesday December 29 and Wednesday December 30 at 7.30pm; Thursday December 31 at 2.30pm; Saturday January 2 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm and Sunday January 3 at 2.30pm

Box office: 01482 874050