It’s a brave choice to stage Oliver Twist when you have the highly publicised Cameron Mackintosh production playing just down the road. And if high kicks and good ol’ cockney spirit is what you’re after then you’d best stick with the Drury Lane production as you won’t find much of that down at Riverside Studios.
Love & Madness’ production is far more true to Dickens’ original, though that’s not to say that it’s without laughs, and Abigail Anderson’s pacey and energetic direction is perfect for a production which is ideally suited to a younger audience.
The cast of five are suitably OTT in their presentation of Dickens’ larger than life characters, yet their performances remain truthful and do not patronise. A grotesque Mr Bumble (Simon Yadoo), a troubled Nancy (Lucia McAnespie) with a heart of gold and a Dodger (Cary Crankson) who sounds like he hangs out with the kids of today remind us why this story remains enduringly popular. Although be warned - the brutal murder of Nancy is not for the faint-hearted.
The problem lies in the fact that this production is essentially geared towards children and yet is playing to an adult audience (in an evening slot and in rep with La Ronde). Whilst an older audience will still gain enjoyment the production lacks a requisite level of sophistication.
Children and teenagers will delight in the re-telling of this classic and it could be especially popular with those studying the text at school. However if Riverside Studios want its audience asking for “more” they’ll need to reconsider their scheduling of such a production as most adult audiences will need something a little more filling.
- Rachel Sheridan