Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

With the Original Twist in the Tale

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

With the Original Twist in the Tale

Article excerpt

Byline: By Sam Wonfor

When Charles Dickens first introduced Oliver Twist in 1837, it's a fair bet that he wasn't thinking about an all-singing, all-dancing jamboree.

The story of a starving orphan caught between opposing forces of good and evil served as a powerful social commentary and morality tale illustrating the poor laws of Victorian England.

In the 167 years since the first instalment of the serialised tale hit the shelves, the story has never gone out of print and has been the subject of a string of adaptations.

Television, film and the stage have all played host to the famous characters and many have brought a large slice of sunshine (often via the medium of song and dance) to lighten up the darkness of the original story.

But the latest stage production - adapted and directed by acclaimed playwright, author and artistic director Neil Bartlett - which will grace the stage at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, next week, makes no apologies for reverting to the type - or Dickens' handwritten manuscript.

And it is also proud of the fact that it should not be confused with well-known musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart - now widely becoming synonymous with any mention of the novel.

"It's often the first image people conjure in their minds when they hear Oliver Twist - probably because the film's on each Christmas," laughs Neil who also produced Dickens' A Christmas Carol eight years ago.

"But let me say straight away, this is not a production of Lionel Bart's Oliver. We are using Dickens' own words to tell the story. The music we're using is taken from his own world - borrowed for the evening.

"It's a very different world to the one created in the 1960s when the musical was produced.

"There is certainly room for both. It's not a case of us saying, `this is the real story and the other one is not'. We're just telling it differently - taking Dickens' text and telling the dark, dramatic and theatrical story. …

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