Oliver Twist

5
Seen at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.
By Paula - 7th Dec 2023

Photo by Camila AdamsA Modern Day Twist on Twist!

Christmas productions at the Tobacco Factory never fail to please – Oliver Twist is up there with one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. The cast and production team have taken an all time classic, familiar to many of us from the 1968 musical film, and made it their own. With a cast of actors from the South West region Heidi Vaughan the artistic director has re-created something funny and heart-warming which will appeal to everyone this Christmas.

From Victorian London to modern day Bristol this production maintains the core thread and sentiment of Dickens’ story – an orphan boy lost in a city he doesn’t know who falls in with a gang of rogues and eventually finds a family and a place to belong. But with modern nuances, clever characterisation and more than a nod to 21st century social themes; cost of living crisis and gender identity among them.

A small, but talented cast, play multiple characters on an all but empty stage peppered with a few well-chosen props, brought to life with simple but atmospheric lighting. A few original musical numbers including a great take on Fagin’s classic scene when planning his getaway – really enhance the mood of what can be a bleak tale. And, presumably for good reason to make this a family friendly show the character of Bill (Sykes) is less menacing that written or often portrayed in other productions and some of the less appealing elements of the story have been left out.

The whole show is carried along by this talented cast with Defende Nyanhete as Oliver at its centre. Notable performances by Beverly Rudd who has taken a classic literary figure and portrayed them in a way that will forever change my perception* and Tom Fletcher taking on three roles and delivering memorable performances particularly as Dodger (named for his favourite biscuit of the Jammie variety). A shout out to Alex Heane for his musical talents, hidden at the back of the stage in semi darkness on keyboard, guitar, drums and more - adding so much to the atmosphere.

Tobacco Factory Theatre Productions are always creative and innovative – in Oliver Twist they have brought together an excellent cast and team for an evening which had the audience, cheering, and laughing throughout. An evening of exceptional entertainment which everyone in the audience enjoyed.

Paula Luke

*No spoilers – you need to see the show!


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