If Annie is America’s favourite orphan, then Oliver would be the UK’s – although I’ve a sneaky suspicion Oliver is more of a global force than Annie.
Produced by the Edinburgh Playhouse’s creative learning programme Stage Experience, Oliver brings the story of the boy who wanted more to life with a huge ensemble cast of young people from across Scotland. A daunting task no doubt for the young performers, not that you would notice, these future stars all considered themselves at home on stage.
The bleak and sombre staging creates a depressing atmosphere, the mood lifts when we reach the chorus of Food Glorious Food, an optimistic and charming song performed incredibly well by the large cast. There are moments when the vocals can’t be heard over the live orchestra, a minor quibble given the familiarity of the song but newcomers may be left straining to hear the lyrics.
We journey with Oliver from the gruelling workhouse to the undertakers and meet some colourful (and some lacking in colour) characters. An animated and enthusiastic performance by Connor Dickson generates plenty of laughs with his portrayal of Mr Bumble, a welcome balance to a story which is far darker than I remember.
Taylor Torkington plays the titular character, filling the theatre with his voice and carrying the same level of charm and innocence I remember from the film version of Oliver.
I had my doubts a young performer could pull off Fagin’s character, but Aaron Kavanagh does a fine job. Ellie Campbell also impresses as Nancy, a huge role to fill for an 18-year-old, but Ellie nails it.
You soon forget how young the performers are, some of the accents don’t quite work and possibly shouldn’t have been attempted to make the dialogue easier to understand. I left feeling it would have been more fun to see Oliver performed entirely with Scottish accents – “get the polis” was a wonderful comic turn.
Oliver was a fun performance, the cast did a great job and there’s no doubt we’ve seen some stars of the future in the Edinburgh Playhouse this week.
For ticket info visit Edinburgh Playhouse
The show runs until Sat 23rd July