Review: Children at heart of charity performance Oliver!

Edward Liversidge as Noah Claypole and Joel Fletcher as Oliver
Edward Liversidge as Noah Claypole and Joel Fletcher as Oliver
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Under the inspired direction of drama teacher Liz Monks, supporters of local children’s charity Safe@Last brought Lionel Bart’s Oliver! to life at the Lyric Theatre in Dinnington.

The tale is of orphan Oliver Twist who dared to ask for more. It was chosen because of the similarities between the Oliver’s story and the issues young people face even today when they find themselves alone on our streets - the very people Safe@Last supports.

The cast of Oliver!

The cast of Oliver!

This wasn’t a performance by established amateur actors but a group of people combining their talents to entertain and raise funds for the charity.

As the curtains opened we witnessed the harsh reality of the orphans’ life in the workhouse to a rousing rendition of Food Glorious Food.

It came from a cast of children whose enthusiasm and energy never waned throughout the two hour show.

We were introduced to young Oliver, played by Joel Fletcher in his lead debut. Joel’s performance was sweet, naive and sincere, highlighting Oliver’s vulnerability.

Oliver runs away and meets the charismatic Artful Dodger (Brandon Fletcher) who introduces him to underworld mastermind Fagin. Paul Scott’s Fagin was sinister with a balance of humour.

Oliver is dragged further into London’s dirty underbelly where he meets formidable Bill Sykes (Richard Willshaw) and sweet, brave Nancy - a role shared by Jessica Steele and Becky Lancashire. Both leading ladies injected raw emotion into the tragic song As Long as He Needs Me.

After a violent climax Oliver is saved by kind Mr Brownlow, his long lost grandfather, and starts a happier life.

The orchestra, conducted by musical director Louise Patterson, gave its time freely, delivering a sensitive and note perfect performance.

The lead roles were supported by an adult cast who delivered big musical numbers with enthusiasm and brilliant acting skills. But the show’s real success was the young cast whose hard work brought the story to life and left the audience asking “Please Sir, can we have more?”

By Clare Sherratt