This world premiere production by the Giant Olive Theatre Company certainly delivers a new 'Twist' on a well-known tale. Writer/adapter Piers Beckley, in going back to the original, has found the dark heart of the story, which director Ray Shell fashions into something genuinely disturbing and totally enthralling.
This is Dickens as Dickens intended, a thriller steeped in atmosphere with traces of black humour, where the stark characters that inhabit this world are brought vividly to life by an ensemble cast to die for. Tired, worn set pieces are omitted in order to present a fresh insight as we move swiftly from the Workhouse and Mr Sowerberry's to the heart of the matter - Oliver's escapades in London and the forces that abound to engage him in a life of crime.
Andrea Hooymans' set design is a fine example of less is more; the drabness of the grey walls, hung with broken fragmented images of London, serves as a background that accentuates the appearance of the characters in their colourful costumes, designed and created by Neale Pirie.
The ensemble are well drilled and the scenes flow quickly and easily from one to the other with the addition of mood-setting musical interludes as the cast re-arrange boxes to become tables, pub benches or beds, and a few carefully chosen props clearly indicate place, such as the addition of a bottle and two glasses in Fagin's den. The minimalist lighting design by Cairan Cunningham is sympathetic; using carefully spotlit areas he's not afraid to use low lighting to create a brooding atmosphere.
The cast are exemplary, Edward Kingham's masterful fresh Fagin reveals not only his abilities to manipulate people, but a caring side, if only when it suits his purpose of looking after number one. Amy Merrutia is a feisty yet warm-hearted Nancy, loyal to her lover and companions, whilst Gemma Sandzer's Oliver has the right mix of vulnerability and bravery.
In these bleak times Oliver Twist is a reminder of our much darker past and this production, if you'll pardon a well-trodden phrase, certainly leaves you wanting more.