Review: ‘Oliver!’ at the Sinden Theatre

The Tenterden Schools Trusts (TST) this week is holding a production of ‘Oliver!’ after a three week delay due to the ‘Beast from the East’.

The Sinden Theatre has seen fantastic shows by Homewood students before, like their astounding rendition of Les Misérables, Sweeny Todd or Sister Act. However, this is one of the first performances as a collective from local schools.

Oliver Twist is someone that all of us can remember from a young age, whether you merely remember some of the songs from the 1968 film or studied the Dicken’s classic at school. Tenterden Junior School, St Michael’s Primary School and Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre combined a mixture of talents to create a great adaptation of ‘Oliver!’ with teachers of course contributing to the musical score.

Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the audio equipment, as some microphones made loud scratchy noises, and in one instance the Artful Dodger (played by understudy, Charlie Reeves) had to have his microphone switched before a musical number. However, Reeves continued to make the crowd giggle, spontaneously saying “Sorry about that, Governor!” before returning to stage.

As well as this, there were some lines forgotten in both the dialogue and songs, but you can’t expect anything more from a thirteen-year-old boy or girl, already in the spotlight, and remaining composed in from of an estimated 350 audience members. Also, due to the age of some of the primary school children in the production, there were a few little waves at their family sitting in the audience, but they’ve got a pass as they were as young as seven years old.

The first half of the show contained more errors and slip-ups, but as part two developed I found myself very invested. Oliver Twist (played by understudy, Max Thompson) sang in a way that Mark Lester would be proud, and Nancy (played by understudy, Liana Light) had a delightful Cockney accent and sang ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ with a grin on her face, which received a huge applaud by the audience, who also joined in.

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Liana pressed through her performance even though forgetting some of her lines and speaking a little too quickly at times, however her on-stage relationship with Bill Sykes (played by understudy, Liam MacMillan) was scarily accurate to the film.

Liam MacMillan was terrifying from the get-go, his power and presence on stage said, ‘this isn’t someone to mess with’. The talent he demonstrated would be expected from a seasoned professional at the Globe Theatre, this is someone to watch out for, as I feel like this talent will only continue to grow.

Fagin (played by Thomas Phillips) remained true to the original film character, with a hunch and slightly raspy voice, making the audience laugh and dealing with slight slip-ups with off-the-cuff comments about his old age clumsiness. Thomas has performed in several different productions at the Sinden Theatre and can throw himself into any role.

Thomas’ rendition of ‘Reviewing the Situation’ came to an astonishing crescendo, as he stamped on the stage at the end of the song, threw his arms in the air and exclaimed “Hoy!” The stage darkened all at once and a red stream of light cast Fagin’s silhouette across the audience.

Lana Pattenden also graced the stage with her humour and distinctive deliverance of lines, she was well-rehearsed and playing multiple characters throughout the show. Whilst playing Mr Brownlow, Lana improvised when another cast member missed their cue to enter stage left. Mr Bumble (played by Jordan Ollier) was constantly scowling and portrayed the character of a bitter, bitter man. Lily Mummery, the rose seller, made the hairs on my arms stand with her voice, in the song ‘Who Will Buy’, she sounded angelic and she deserved all the praise the crowd gave her, and the other street criers.

As the cast bowed at the end, they gave their applause to the assistance musical director, Yvette Snow, and to the live feed from a music room behind the stage, showing the orchestra.

‘Oliver!’ at Homewood School’s Sinden Theatre was a great night out and brilliant homage to Carol Reed, director of ‘Oliver!’ and the unforgettable Dickens novel.

Music, lyrics and the book were by Lionel Bart, and the production of the play was produced for the Broadway stage, by David Merrick and Donald Albery.

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