Christmas show review: Oliver Twist at Hull Truck Theatre by Julia Pattison

Some of the Oliver Twist cast.
Some of the Oliver Twist cast.

Play: Oliver Twist

Venue: Hull Truck Theatre

Dates: Until Saturday 5 January 2019

Review by: Julia Pattison

Directed by Hull Truck Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Babych, and after the success of their immensely successful Christmas production of A Christmas Carol last year, this year’s production is an exciting new adaptation by playwright Deborah McAndrew, of Dickens’ classic novel, Oliver Twist.

What a joy this production was to experience, with a mix of carols, traditional songs and original lyrics all mixed up together that moved the story on at a cracking pace; just right for engaging a family audience.

Most of us are familiar with the story line, especially Oliver’s famous plea “Please Sir, I want some more” to Mr Bumble (Ian Jervis) in the workhouse scene, but for a young audience this was a wonderful introduction to Dickens’ work, and you couldn’t help but be moved emotionally by Oliver’s situation. This production was an inspired alternative to a panto, but there were definitely times when you wanted to boo baddie Bill Sikes (menacingly and brilliantly played by Samuel Edward-Cook).

The wonderfully talented professional cast were joined by Young Company, drawn from Hull Truck Youth Theatre and the Northern Academy of Performing Arts. Tilly Sproats was outstanding in the lead role of Oliver at the morning performance I watched; a star in the making.

The set design was superb, with lots of twists and turns to complement the action, with two upper levels of walkways, and trapdoors concealed on the stage so you never quite knew where a character was going to appear from next, adding to the pace and professionalism of the production.

Lots of effective multi-roling too, with heart felt emotions, enhanced by lusty singing and dancing. There were lots of highlights, particularly at the delightful finale, but one that was most memorable to me was the atmospheric song and routine when Oliver was forced to sleep amongst the coffins at Mr Sowerberry’s (wonderfully portrayed by Patrick Bridgman, who was just as convincing in his role as the kindly Mr Brownlow).

You experienced a roller coaster of emotions in this show, from the depths of despair and sadness, to the heights of joy and happiness.

We all love a happy ending, and such was the combination of the quality acting, movement, music, costumes and atmospheric lighting that you wanted to shout out at the end “We want more”.