Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A tale with a Twist

Partners in crime: Kiara-Peaches Mackay as Nancy, Daniel Robert Beaton as Bill Sykes, James Kay as Fagin and Will Garrett as Young Oliver 

Oliver Twist

Hall Green Little Theatre Youth Theatre


OLIVER Twist was the second novel by Charles Dickens and with 11 feature films, including the classic 1948 version by David Lean, three TV mini-series and a smash hit musical it has to be one of the best known

That can be a blessing – the audience know the story – and a curse – again, the audience know the story.

This schools' adaptation by Guy Williams is true to most of the story although it is a bit hazy about Oliver's relationship to Mr Brownlow and what happens to our diminutive hero after being saved from a life of crime, electing to end instead with the hanging of Fagin . . . my dear..

Daniel Robert Beaton as Bill Sykes was the stand-out performer full of menace and confidence and a creditable East End accent as the psychopathic robber whose hobby was GBH. He has appeared with the main Hall Green company and the experience shows.

He also has the advantage of look and sounding like an adult. It is always difficult in youth theatre to take on adult parts, much more so for boys than girls, Girls and women are not too dissimilar in looks and voice but men and boys? Until voices break boys will be boys, no matter who they are portraying and how much make up is applied. Daniel has a natural deep voice and could happily transport his Psycho Sykes to an adult production.

Laura Coxson gives us an excellent Mrs Corney and soon to be Mrs Bumble, a real nasty streak there while Anna Garrett gives us a flaky Mrs Sowerberry, wife of the undertaker to whom Oliver is apprenticed, who suffers a convincing – and very loud – attack of the vapours at the least hint of trouble, along with their maidservant Charlotte, played by Iona Taylor.

Kiara-Peaches Mackay as Nancy in the less than living embrace of Daniel Robert Beaton's Bill Sykes

Kiara-Peaches Mackay has her moments as Bill's girl – I hesitate to add friend to that – Nancy, who spends much of her time being beaten by Mr Sykes who has a limited form of argument. She suffers well and dies even better.

Anna Garrett pops up again as Monks, Oliver's half-brother, and although she keeps the two roles nicely separate girls as men is always difficult.

Among the men, men Elijah Douglas –Smith showed some promise as the other undertaker's apprentice Noah while James Kay grovelled along as Fagin aided by the slightly snivelling Artful Dodger, Ross Shaw.

Oscar Davies as Mr Brownlow, complete with handlebar moustache, gave a studied performance as the man who was the best friend of Oliver's late father and was now his benefactor while Ryan Luton gave us no-nonsense Bumble.

As for Oliver - this production has two; Aron Burke is the grown up Oliver acting as narrator and filling in detail between scenes while Will Garrett is young Oliver, the orphan who escapes the workhouse to end up in Fagin's den of thieves.

The production itself was a little bit of a curate's egg. Too much dialogue was lost by unclear speech and at times too much shouting and expressions of anger, fear or whatever while some of the scene changes took far too long, losing the flow, particularly when a long scene change seemed to result in just the repositioning of three mobile panels.

Director Roy Palmer's set design was interesting though, particularly the creation of Fagin's den from four panels, and with slicker changes it would have worked well, but no doubt speed with improve with live practice.

Costumes, from a team of six, were excellent and all in all it was an enjoyable show for Dickens' bicentenary year with a huge cast, giving plenty of youngsters a chance to tread the boards, and they did it with bags of enthusiasm holding out the promise of a new generation coming through.

Roger Clarke 

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate