Lionel Bart’s Oliver!

August 9, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Good effort

Rose Theatre (Venue 76): Fri 5 – Tue 16 Aug
Review by Yvonne Paterson

Captivate Theatre brings Lionel Bart’s Oliver! to the Edinburgh fringe for a short run until August 16 at the Rose Theatre on Rose Street.

The cast make a fair attempt at taking on the well known musical about the orphan boy who dared to ask for more. The ensemble of orphan children giving an energetic performance of the opening number, Food Glorious Food, as workhouse caretaker Mr Bumble takes to the stage.

A scene from Oliver! Pic: Sally Lyall

Darren Couttes takes on the role as the imperious Mr Bumble with enthusiasm and doesn’t shy away from bellowing his disapproval at being asked for more gruel by the timorous Oliver. Couttes gives a favourable vocal performance of Boy for Sale as he takes to the streets to find a new owner for Oliver.

Calum Caulfield does well in the role as Oliver showing vulnerability and innocence and gives a beautiful performance of Where is Love, having found himself being sold to the local undertaker Mr Sowberry. Les Faulton is comical in the role although he overplays the drunkenness at times, which detracts from the character. Hazel Beattie is suitably harsh and pitiless as Mrs Sowberry as she traps Oliver in a coffin.

Having escaped the Sowberrys, Oliver heads to London where he encounters the Artful Dodger. Violet Beattie gives a warm and friendly performance and is likeable in the role. She captures the cheeky side of the character well during Consider Yourself as Dodger takes Oliver to meet small time crook Fagin.

fun and enthusiastic

Charlie Munro’s animated Fagin convinces Oliver to join his gang of young thieves with a fun and enthusiastic performance of You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two. Later, he is equally convincing in his Reviewing The Situation.

Oliver is soon introduced to bolshie gang member Nancy. Jess Nolan takes on the role with zest, delivering great vocals in the energetic number Oom-Pah-Pah but it’s her performance of As Long as He Needs Me that really makes her stand out. She captures the emotion and turmoil of being married to the malicious, cruel crook Bill Sikes beautifully.

Charlie Munro (Fagin) and John Knox (Sikes) in Oliver! Pic: Sally Lyall

John Knox is unconvincing in the role as Bill Sikes, however. He delivers his lines with aggression but is one dimensional. Sikes is the main antagonist, but by failing to make his performance believable it becomes difficult to invest not only in his character but also in those around him.

Another somewhat flat performance comes from Sandy Queenen in the role as Mr Brownlow, the gent whose pocket Oliver sets out to pick, but who ends up taking him in. Queenan lacks energy and is a little dreary in the role. By contrast, Brett Herriot captures the cynical side of Brownlow’s Dr Grimwig extremely well, making him funny and enjoyable to watch.

Fortunately, Caulfield and the ensemble of vendors offer the necessarily spirited performance of Who Will Buy? to lift the mood, creating hope that things might be looking up for young Oliver as he goes off on an errand.

Individually, some of the cast offer strong performances; however it is not enough. Collectively it doesn’t work. The energy on stage is mismatched, making the production feel disjointed and a little disappointing.

Overall this is a good and palatable attempt at reviving Oliver! – but the production fails to leave its audience wanting more.

Running time: Two hours (including one interval)
Rose Theatre (Main Stage), 204 Rose Street, EH2 4AZ (Venue 76)
Friday 5 – Tuesday 16 August 2022
Daily: 18:00
Tickets and details: Book here.
ENDS

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Comments (4)

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  1. paul fobs says:

    This review is a little harsh for a production with a cast of primarily under 15 year olds. I couldn’t disagree more with this review and encourage everyone to go see this wonderful show with the most talented of children.

  2. Ella Cairney says:

    I feel the need to respond to this as I feel like the reviewer and I saw a different show. This is just a list of what this person thought of each of the actors, not a well rounded piece about the show as a whole. I think the reviewer should also remember that they were watching amateur theatre with mostly young people, not a professional revival. I really feel for bill sykes as well because this reviewer has decided to spend a whole paragraph attacking him. I thought he was great
    The “oliver” that I saw from captivate theatre was energetic and fun with very strong performances from the principals and a really engaging ensemble of kids
    I think this reviewer should remember the level at which they are writing reviews and get off their high horse

  3. James Anderson says:

    Well said, Paul. We were there last night and were amazed by the whole show. I won’t select individuals because, as you say, this is an amateur production full of young people who don’t deserve to have their hard work disparaged by the opinion of one person. What I will say is that there were no weak links and some brilliant and nuanced interpretations of darker situations that can be hard to portray when held up against, say, the tragic lover or the hapless clown. Life is made up of a far greater breadth and depth of characters than that. Dickens’ greatest talent was writing about the circumstances that create those choices and behaviours and bringing those characters to life on the page. Bart’s genius was bringing it to an even wider audience with more banging tunes than many other musicals I can call to mind. Please ignore this review and get yourself down to the Rose Theatre and decide for yourself. I promise you will not be disappointed!

  4. K Thom says:

    A very harsh review indeed.
    Yes the roles you give credit to are much deserved , all the cast are excellent with Charlie Munro’s take on Fagin and Jess Nolan’s take on Nancy especially deserving of praise but the two you single out for criticism is certainly not deserved.
    John Knox’s portrayal of Bill Sikes is that menacing I had to sleep with the lights on after I saw it & im 57!
    Sandy is also charming in his role. I don’t know what you expect him to do to add to it as it’s quite a small part but what he does he does very well. If you want to see what Sandy is really capable of then maybe treat yourself to a ticket to Sunshine on Leith

    This is NOT a good effort. It is a fantastic show . 5 stars from me