City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Oliver!, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

By Gordon Clayton - Posted on 02 June 2012

Show Details
Cameron Macintosh,Southbrook Group & Stage Entertainments
Laurence Connor (director), Matthew Bourne (Choreographer), Toby Higgins (Musical Director), Totie Driver & Adrian Vaux (Set Design)
Brian Conley (Fagin), Cat Simmons (Nancy), Iain Fletcher (Bill Sykes), Harry Polden (Oliver), Will Edden (Artful Dodger), Jack Edwards (Mr Bumble), Suzie Chard (Widow Corney), Stephen Moore (Mr Brownlow)
Running time: 

‘Masterful’ Oliver! with twists of ingenuity wowed the audience at last night’s performance of the well-known musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse. With the exception of some younger members of the audience the story of Oliver Twist is built into most people’s memory through the book, umpteen BBC dramatisations and the many repeats of the classic film.

However, the production team aided and abetted by a splendid cast, has tried very hard to improve on the original and come up trumps.

The director and choreographer have taken routines that are demanding enough on celluloid, made them more complex, and delivered them in front of your very  own eyes.  This is coupled with atmospheric scenery that moves seamlessly in and out of the stage while the story continues at pace throughout the show.

When interviewed, Brian Conley, who stars as Fagin, said that he hoped the audience would be humming the songs going out of the theatre. The problem for the cast is that due to the film and the search for ‘Nancy’ in the "I’d do Anything" show on TV is that the audience already have the songs pre-programmed and you need to lift this to new heights.

This was achieved from the off with first class orchestrations and great chorus work from the talented group of youngsters in the workhouse.

Brian Conley joins the who’s who of comic actors who have played the iconic part of Fagin and whether working with his gang or going solo "With reviewing the situation" he is a likeable rogue. Despite drawing plenty of boos as Bill Sykes, I felt that Iain Fletcher could have been a bit more menacing and less shadowy in establishing his character as the villain of the piece.

Cat Simmons is a rumbustious, raucous Nancy and is very much at home in the pub number "Oom-Pah-Pah" where she conveys the strength to survive her lifestyle while delivering "As long as he needs me" from plaintive to big finish.

The supporting cast are all very good with Jack Edwards as Mr Bumble and the soon to be Mrs Bumble Suzie Chard ably demonstrating the changes between courtship and marriage.

All those involved in the undertakers extract the comedy out of the scenes. The kindly Mr Brownlow (Stephen Moore) sets the right tone and Lincoln Hudson has a scene stealing-role as Dr. Grimwig.

The parts of  Oliver and the Artful Dodger are shared throughout the run, but Harry Polden already with credits the length of your arm, and Will Edden were at the top of their game last night. The little lad left on stage dancing with Fagin surely has a big future.

Despite the familiarity with the story and songs, this production is full of 'West End Values' and a theatrical experience worth catching.

Show times

Runs to 23rd June, 7.30pm (not Mondays); Matinees on Thurs, Sat & Wed. 20 June, 2.30pm.