Oliver! by Lionel Bart
Performed during 1993
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Technical Crew Details:
Reviewed by Donald Madgwick for The Croydon Advertiser
What a jolly Fagin
the programme is adorned by Cruikshank's illustration of Oliver's reception by Fagin and the boys, showing the usurious old fence as an emblem of physical, moral and sartorial decay.
What we are actually about to see on stage is a sanitised Fagin, smart and dapper, picking a pocket or two with all the jollity of a favourite uncle at a Christmas party. For this is the way Dickens has come home to roost in Lionel Bart's musical.
Under the direction of Chris Argles, with Mark Taylor directing the music on piano and Simeon Dawes on guitars/synthesisers, the entertainment goes with a swing, given a degree of blandness even beyond Bart's own intentions.
For example, Lisa Boniface makes Wdow Corney seem less like that repellent matron than the genial Miss Twinkleton of Edwin Drood, while Bruce Montgomery's Fagin, for all his skill in presentation, is too lovable for comfort.
However, Richard Lloyd cuts a frightening enough figure as the brutal Bill Sykes, quite turning the beer sour in the Three Cripples to earn the reputation of his fearsome name.
Oliver himself is played by Toby Keast with a wistful quality of untouchable innocence. Much sympathy, too, is generated for Tatiana Allison's Nancy, a basically decent girl gone wrong through force of circumstance.
Daniel Ireson is bright and jocular as the Dodger, and Tim Young gives a portentous account of Mr Bumble.
Chris Argles directs with a good feel for pace and atmosphere. The Street criers' scene is particularly well staged, also Oliver's scrap with Nathan Moughtin's loutish Noah Claypole.
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