If like me, you are of a certain age, you will probably be most familiar with Lionel Bart’s musical “Oliver!” via the Oscar winning film version from the late sixties.
And what a marvellous film it is! Superbly cast and directed, it is (dare I say it) definitely a film of its time.
Having decided that I would very much like to direct the stage version, I went back to the source material and re-read Dickens’ novel for the first time in 30 odd years.
What a grim piece of literature! Brutal and demoralising, I came away from it thinking what an odd choice it must have been to adapt as a piece of musical theatre. That however, is the brilliance of Lionel Bart’s adaptation. Amongst the suffering and cruelty, he manages to find every spark of decency and humanity in the novel with his uplifting music and lyrics. Who can resist the infectious “Floor, glorious food”, the poignant “Where is love?” or the chutzpah of “Consider Yourself”?
In this joint Pirates & NWTC production I would definitely like to return to the grittiness and grime of the original novel. Mid-19th century London was the biggest metropolis in the world, full of people from all over the burgeoning empire whose daily lives were a constant struggle for survival. It is therefore important to me that the cast of this production reflects the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city at that time.
“Oliver!” is full to the brim of some of the most despicable, cunning, conniving, grotesque characters ever to be presented on stage. Surely a joy for any actor to play! From Bill Sikes’ violent psychopath to Mrs. Corney’s sharp-tongued, scheming widow, there are numerous roles for any actor to get their teeth into.
I’d also just like to say that, as a long standing member of Pirates, I feel an immense sense of gratitude and pride that I have been given the opportunity to direct this fantastic show. It is of huge importance to me that our two clubs have come together to put on this truly amazing piece of theatre. I truly believe that “Oliver!” embodies so many elements that should appeal to both the membership and audience of both our clubs.
Neil Johnson, Director