Tuesday, 13 May 2014

OLIVER by The People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre

The People's Theatre Company have pushed that bar up even further and this production of "Oliver" is the benchmark for what an amateur theatre company should be aiming for.

Everyone knows the story of the workhouse boy who escaped from the nasty Mr Bumble, head of the workhouse, after being sold to work in a funeral parlour. He is befriended by The Artful Dodger and taken in by Fagin but his career as a petty thief stalled when he was caught stealing an handkerchief from the upper class Mr Brownlow, who then took him only to discover that Oliver was really his Grandson.

There were so many stand out performances in a cast of amazingly good actors. I loved Chris Teasdale and Gill Cook as the funeral parlour pair, Mr & Mrs Sowerby, Katie Inglis as Nancy, who made my skin tingle as she poured her heart out in "As Long As He Needs Me", Stephen Godward's amazing voice and characterization of the classic Ron Moody character Fagin, and believe it or not, I didn't think once of Ron Moody throughout the show. Stephen Godward was Fagin!

Jason Wrightam was so intimidating as Bill Sykes, the bullying of Nancy was at times quite unnerving and realistic, fist clenching stuff! Lennon Bradley played Oliver and is someone to look out for in the future; a confident actor and singer who teased a few "aahhs" from the audience when singing "Where Is Love". Lennon alternates with Jacob Simpson in the role all this week.

Another confident and talented young actor is Chandler Wagstaff, who plays The Artful Dodger, again alternating with Jacob Baker-Telling this week.Chandler has real stage presence and can also be seen in "Oh What A Lovely War" in July at the Arts Theatre.

They say never work with kids and animals and in this show both are stars because Bullseye, Bill Sykes dog is played by Mabel. How they managed to train Mabel to look lovingly at Bill Sykes throughout shows that Mabel really has dogged determination to make it in show business!

Only a few names from such a large cast, and I noticed that every young actor knew all the words of the songs, every piece of choreography, not needing to look at the person next to them for their cue. Professional to the last.

The sound mix was spot on and you could hear every single notation, every word from the singers, and a lovely sound from the orchestra under the musical direction of David Hails.The lighting and sound courtesy of College Street Technicians, added another professional touch to the production.

Some great sets as well, beautifully designed by Cris Brawn and well constructed.

This is yet another directorial smash for the incredibly talented Maggie Andrew who gives blood, sweat and quite a few tears to every production she waves her magic wand over. I feel a NODA nomination in the future for "Oliver"

The show started bang on 7.30 which was practically a miracle in any theatrical show to start dead on time. I can't praise this show enough and not just the actors on stage but to the back stage grafters, the scene shifters, prop movers all the way to the incredibly friendly front of house staff. A more professional, amateur production you'll be hard pressed to find.

"Oliver" is on at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 18 May 2014.

You can hear my chat with Stephen Godward who plays Fagin, on my Nottingham Hospitals radio Sunday morning show below.

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