‘Oliver!’ (Forth Children’s Theatre) | Review By Rebecca Donati & Keiran McLean

Lionel Bart’s Oliver! Comes to the stage of the Edinburgh Tabernacle with the amazing young talent of the Forth Children’s Theatre bringing this classic musical to life.

Forth Children’s Theatre are an established, award winning youth theatre company based in Edinburgh who were formed in 1979. This April, they put on their Easter show of Oliver! This production was full of joy leaving their audience of theatre lovers with smiles on their faces.  

Lionel Bart’s Oliver! is a coming of age musical based on the legendary Charles Dickens novel – Oliver Twist. Oliver! unromantically portrays the life of crime and the cruel treatment of orphans in mid 19th century London. Born in a workhouse, Oliver Twist is grown up in poverty and then sold into apprenticeship to an undertaker. After escaping, Oliver finds himself in London, where he meets the “Artful Dodger”, a member of juvenile pick pockets led by the thief Fagan.Once Oliver manages to escape the criminal family, turmoil emerges as Fagan and Sykes go on a mission to find Oliver and prevent their criminal gang being exposed.

Forth Children’s theatre’s production of Oliver! was a heartwarming rendition of the Dickens classic. FCT wowed the audience with their dazzling choreography, staging and flawless energy. Young actress Martha Broderick played a wonderful Oliver, she captured the solemn essence of Oliver particularly well and showed great emotional maturity in the role. She was a wonderful child singer who brought vulnerability to the character. Broderick’s voice, acting and dancing ability grasped the audience falling in love with her performance.

Honor Llewellin’s portrayal of Dodger was fantastic. Her cheeky chappy approach for the character was perfect for the role of Dodger. Llewellin’s acting was very strong throughout the performance, bringing great energy to the piece. Llewellin’s rendition of “Consider Yourself” showcased her vocal ability and charismatic natural stage presence making her a stand out during the show.

The cast overall were amazing, highlighting some great acting, emotional character arcs and energy from every cast member and ensemble. There were some slip ups – forgetting dialogue – and a few miscues/jumping of lines however, this didn’t take away from the heart-warming performances. 

The live band added a great orchestral feel to the show. The band were on point throughout the musical, having great tempo and timing – adjusting when need be. Having a live band gave the show a more classic feeling for such a classic play. The only issue with having the band through speakers in the main hall was that it did seem to drown out the cast at times, taking away from some of the action on stage. A particular moment was during the tap sequence from the dance team which was wonderfully choreographed – it would have been a nice touch to hear the sound of the tap isolated from the band. 

The directing from Lewis C. Baird gave a great theatrical, modern take on the beloved musical. You got everything you would want from seeing Oliver! The utilisation of the set designed by Steve Phair allowed Baird to create the city of London and the world of Oliver Twist by using slight prop changes and repositioning to change the scenery. Baird’s directing had the audience engrossed in the show and gave every actor a chance to stand out and impress the viewers. The ending, having Fagan walk off with Dodger in a deep silhouette lighting also gave a very aesthetically and emotionally pleasing end to the show.

Taylor Doig’s choreography was incredible. The dancing was one of the highlights of the piece. The cast’s dancing ability looked professional and showcasing different styles from contemporary to tap to ballet gave the show some flair and left the audience wanting more. With a cast ranging in various ages, the experience level and ability in their dancing techniques were on par with every single one of the dancers.

In conclusion, FCT’s Oliver! Was a very fun and exciting show. The creative team worked together to create a modern twist on this classic musical. The cast did a brilliant job and maintained their energy throughout. As an audience member the sheer fun the cast were having allowed you to relax and feel part of the family.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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