Oliver Twist – Chester Storyhouse

Dear reader, it behoves my integrity as a theatre critic to confess something to you post haste. And this confession may indeed shape your outlook on my words but I will not be suppressed.

I am what you might call a Scrooge; who has acquiesced the duty of reviewing a Christmas show.

So if you find my words too harsh then feel free to take them with a pinch of salt. On the other hand, should your thoughts be in accordance with my own then perhaps consider sending some shillings my way. Now, as a Scrooge, I have an eye for the finer things so you can trust when I say that sitting in the Storyhouse of Chester is a privilege and a luxury. Festive colours, delicious food and beverages, and decorations appropriate for the season surrounded me as I waited to see the evening’s performance.

 ‘Oliver Twist’, a piece of literature by a writer known as ‘Charles Dickens’ has been edited to suit a more refined gentleman such as myself by one ‘Alex Clifton’. Clifton has masterfully extracted the bore and out-of-date drawl language our friend Dickens insisted upon, which leaves only to remain the charm and excitement of such unforgettable characters like the artful dodger and the sinister Bill Sikes. Indeed, there’s no chance of anyone being lost in the story, or missing the context of a quip as the dialogue comfortably carries us through.

Now dear reader, you should be aware that I live in a very large and very empty mansion. So I have a keen eye for style and practicality in my living space. I see the Storyhouse Theatre shares this taste and constructed a set that was versatile, elegant, and all the while becoming of a London street. I would go so far to say the set itself could be summed up in just two words: street smart. Brickwork walls opened out into shopfronts where our colourful cast of characters would emerge and I dare say even a pigeon made a home in the set it was so convincing. But I must say, it wasn’t just the set that amused the iris – the costumes were superb. We were gifted many sights that night; from aerial acrobatics to canine companions alike.

While all of that is a visual delight, the auditory aspect should by no means be overlooked. In between scenes (and in some cases during them) our troop of actors granted us the opportunity to listen to their many musical talents as well. To my surprise, folk renditions of brit rock bands? I was aghast but nevertheless intrigued. Those same performances, I would say, were the best experience of the show.

Reader, if there’s something you should understand about this group of purse snatchers, it’s that they’re a very mixed bunch. Some are tall, some are short. Come to think of it, half the cast are very short. So short in fact, between you and me, I think they employed CHILDREN for the show! If it were up to me I’d round them all up; a child’s place is in the workhouse after all. But for you charitable hearts out there, I suppose it serves you to know Storyhouse gives opportunities to even the more… ‘recent’ among us.

I’m told a big part of this Christmas malarkey is a fascination with some guiding star? Well, there’s one star that was in my line of sight that evening and it was one (Cynthia Emeagi) who played the scoundrel ‘Fagin’. Rising up through the stage cloaked in smoke, trickery never looked so good. Throw out any preconceived notions you might have of this character, they won’t live up to the sheer enjoyment of the reprobate that was an absolute delight to watch.

At last reader, I have shared what I can with you. Now the question all critics must answer, should you see this show? In truth, I believe you can answer that for yourself. If you’re like me, one who enjoys the refreshing chill of a dark night and the calm silence of an empty house – then by all means steer clear. On the other hand, if you are such a person who enjoys festivity and the cheers of younger voices then rid yourself of me and be off to Storyhouse with you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear the oddest sound at my window sill. Is that perhaps the rattling of chains…

Oliver! Is playing at The Storyhouse Theatre in Chester until January 16th.

About Author /

Mattie Jenkins went to Liverpool Hope University for a Degree in Drama and Theatre Studies. He continues to contribute to theatre projects from Liverpool to Mold as an actor, director, and musical performer.

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