Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Oliver" - May 2009

With Lionel Bart's Oliver! (exclamation mark compulsory) you know exactly what you should be getting. Lots of small loveable orphans and cheeky pickpockets, a thief with a heart and a right bad 'un. Oh, and some pretty well known tunes and an infamous request for a bit more grub. So with all this, what more does this need? That's right, a BBC Saturday night reality TV show to cast the leading lady. But how do all these work together in this revival at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane?

First off, the set changes worked rather well, in particular a rather nice raised stage section that allowed you to descend into Fagin's lair. However the stage itself seemed small from where we sat towards the side and back of the stalls. Perhaps just the number of cast and chorus that filled it at various points made it seem (intentionally?) claustrophic, but it lacked some of the scale and wow factor I expected.

There also seemed to be opportunities missed. Obviously licencing issues may have played a part, but in the middle of a recession some of the gags could have been tuned to the times. Rowan Atkinson as Fagin provided most of the comic relief, but as Statler said it was a little too much Mr Bean and not enough Blackadder. Jodie Prenger as Nancy performed her songs well, but the star song was "Who Will Buy" with Oliver & Company - and largely because of The Company.

The urchins, orphans, Oliver (Harry Stott) and The Artful Dodger (Eric Dibb-Fuller) were all suitably cute, but that contrasted with the horribly over the top bawdiness that was going on around them. The worst bits of Benny Hill going over the head of the remarkably well behaved younger members of the audience.

Was it an ok show to see? Yes. Was it a good use of £120 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in London? Absolutely not. Definitely more a case of 'Sorry sir, I've had quite enough'.

Image by Michael Le Poer Trench used with permission.