After watching Hull Truck’s new Christmas production of Oliver Twist, you won’t want more gruel. You will want to see the show again. It’s a fantastic production and I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the show last night. I might add an almost full house too.
Based on the Dickens novel of Oliver Twist, it has been cleverly adapted by Deborah McAndrew with Mark Babych as Director. Hull Truck is a lovely, intimate theatre space and although it has grown from the old Spring Street site, has lost none of this intimacy.
Walking in the audience are confronted by an open stage, with overhead gantries over the stage and auditorium and bare wooden steps, to represent the lack of comfort in the workhouse where Oliver is born, to the slum where he meets Fagin. The cast amble onto the set a couple of minutes before the show starts which adds to the atmosphere.
Now, I thought I was not going to get any singing (as in the wonderful film of Oliver) however, I was so pleased when the cast opened with a tuneful rendition of traditional carols, setting the winter scene in an English town. I loved the melodies and the casts’ voices were well blended.
Mr Bumble, the workhouse boss, was suitably played by Ian Jervis. He portrayed a semi comic character, who was suitably scary. Jervis also played Mr Grimming later in the production, with a Scottish accent and his character was hilarious.
Returning to the workhouse, Oliver was joined on stage by other local young actors who looked as if they were loving being part of such a production. They were happy, sad, starving and cheeky where necessary and were an asset to the production. Poor Oliver draws the short straw and goes to Mr Bumble to ask for more food. It’s that classic scene we all remember, and Mr Bumble’s reaction had the younger audience trembling.
I’ll skip to Oliver meeting Dodger and Fagin. They were brilliantly played by females. (Flo Wilson playing a great Fagin). Dodger was artful and friendly, and Fagin was kindish and also scary. It worked, it really did. After a couple of minutes, you forgot they were usually played by male actors.
Nancy, kindly Nancy was played by Lauryn Redding. She was charming, cheeky and brave. She interacted with Oliver so well and was convincing when she got Oliver away and then was murdered by Bill Sikes. Well, Bill was played by Samuel Edward – Cook. Was he scary. He scared me, I would not want to cross him. He menacingly strutted around the stage as though he owned it, and I noticed when he was threatening Nancy (just before he killed her – offstage) that a young audience member had her feet up on the seat and a terrified look on her face. (It was not a distraction, I just noticed her beyond the characters due to the layout of the seating. I thought it enhanced the production, it felt real and is part of the joy of Hull Truck Theatre and its setting.) He has to be the best Sikes I have seen since Oliver Reed.
Mr Brownlow, Oliver’s kind great uncle, was played sympathetically by Patrick Bridgman. He was empathetic, and so believable.
During the production, we were treated to plenty of songs, they were catchy tunes which I am still humming as I write this the next day. I wanted to join in the carols in the final scene (Hull Truck has this effect on you) and as the story ended, the audience rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a brilliant cast.
The show starts at 7pm and ended just after 9pm. I don’t know how they fit so much into such a short time, but they did.
They kept the audience’s attention glued to them the whole time. This is a fast-moving production with Christmas spirit aplenty. Songs and dance, drama, everything you want for the season. Even snow!
It’s a production I could happily see again and can honestly say it’s 5 Star. Go and see it.
It runs until 5th January and ticket prices are from £10 to £26.
Even in the cheap seats you will feel part of this production due to the use of the afore mentioned gantries which were not solely over the stage.
I loved it. I want more!