Theatre Review July 2011
|"A dark and stunning portrayal"
by Karla Leigh Jaggers on 21/07/11
It is foolish to think that this production would not be compared to the musical version that is synonymous with Dicken's classic. However after sitting in the audience of Harlow Theatre Company's production I forgot that any other version ever existed. All thought of jolly numbers and garish dances are shoved away when the audience is greeted by a bloody and real opening scene. The play then continues to unfold throughout the life of Oliver Twist (Kai Cooper) a young orphan with a lot of gumption. We see Oliver work his way through the cruel streets of his home and then walk the seventy miles to London where he meets familiar characters such as 'The Artful Dodger ' (Jake Hannam) and 'Fagan' (Steve Foster). A then gripping and chilling story unfolds that sees a mysterious and smoke-like 'Monks' (Tony Saxby) appear from the shadows at Oliver's every chance for happiness. The play concluded in a beautifully directed and horrifically real climax that sees the use of an incredibly convincing hanging body.
Overall the play had an extremely cinematic feel to it.The props, costume and set were those worthy of the screen and the director's choice of music and sound to create atmosphere was fantastic. It really helped to bring the old tale to a new audience and considering the audience was mostly full of girl guides I think it was received well. Although the majority of the play is very dark and chilling the small pockets of light relief provided by 'Mrs Corney' (Heather Bygraves) and 'The Judge (Martin Bedwell) came just at the right moments and broke up the dark during this long show.
Special mention must be made to Steve Foster whose energy and enthusiasm was contagious, he hobbled around the stage like a king among the children but was also very able to portray the sinister side to Fagan's character. I must also commend Lee Pace and Sophie Lloyd for their stunning portrayal of the tragic couple Bill and Nancy. When they were onstage together the passion and chemistry between them was tangible and the audience were able to imagine the entire length of their relationship and could empathise with Nancy's situation.
Overall Harlow Theatre Company's production of 'Oliver Twist' was brilliant, a true homage to Dickens and the dirty and harsh place that London was. A must see for anyone but be warned it's not the fun and games of its musical predecessor this production is not for the feint hearted.