Oliver - A Christimas Twist of Pantomime

Rob Fearn & Leo Appleton

The show opens with a monologue from the resident ghost, Mamie, who is the spirit of Charles Dickens daughter with whom he used to write. She is there as the narrator and helps move the show along plus provides some of the necessary ‘frights’ for the villains.

When we meet Oliver he is collecting firewood to take back to the workhouse where the other inmates are always hungry. This of course leads to the inevitable ‘please sir can I have some more’. Oliver, though he is quite feisty and will not let the others put upon him, he still asks the question of Mr Bumble who strangely says yes which is lucky for Oliver (there is a vague insinuation that he might be eaten by his friends otherwise) but not for Mr Bumble as Widow Corney gives him an ear-bashing.

Concerned that Oliver plus the others might eat them out of house and home if he keeps asking for more, . Mr Bumble arranges for Oliver to be put out to an apprenticeship. He has a lucky escape from a chimney sweep only to be finally apprenticed to the Sowerberrys.

There he is teased by the horrid Noah Claypole and Charlotte but Oliver will have none of it and fights back and is comically thrown into a cupboard where Mr Bumble gets to iterate the famous words ‘its meat ma’am’.

With the help of Mamie, Oliver escapes from the clutches of the undertaker and makes his way to London where he meets Jack Dawkins aka Artful Dodger who in turn takes him to meet Fagin who is a frustrated chef. Oliver shows he is actually quite a good thief if he wants to be, but in a comic scene returns all the goods to the victims stolen by Fagin’s gang. When Mr Brownlow enters the boys steal his book only for Oliver to take it and return it to him. He is spotted doing this and assumed to be actually stealing it and chased by Mr Brownlow and the chorus. Of course Oliver escapes.

Oliver then foolishly returns later to the spot where he stole the book looking for Mamie and is pinched by a comic policemen who takes him off to see Judge Fang who would like to hang him. Through the further help of Mamie he ends up with Brownlow instead of Fagin where he is taken care off much to the chagrin of Mr Grimlow who is still threatening to eat his hat. At the end of Act 1 we hear Fagin and Bill Sikes discussing what they need to do about Oliver Twist.

At the start of Act 2 Mr Brownlow talks about Oliver to Mr Grimlow and Mrs Bedwin and how much he looks like the portrait of his niece Agnes and he decides to put a note in the paper asking for information about him.

Next we move to Widow Corney’s parlour where she is moaning about her lot. Mr Bumble turns up to take tea with her and it appears Widow Corney is considering other things. But things don’t go too well as Bumble’s attempts to cheer her up seems to fall on deaf ears. In the course of their tea party Mr Bumble spots Mr Brownlow’s article in the paper about Oliver Twist. Widow Corney then reveals she has a gold locket (that belonged to Oliver’s mother) that she had stolen for ‘safekeeping’ from an old dying widow many years ago so Mr Bumble along with Widow Corney decide to go and see Mr Brownlow hoping for a reward.

Back with Mr Brownlow, Oliver is sent to return some books with money and a nice new jacket only to be relieved of all this, comically, by Bill and Nancy.

Mr Bumble and Widow Corney arrive at Mr Brownlows who is heartened by the find of the locket but less than impressed when he hears the two have had it for some years and resolves to get them removed from their positions. 

Moving swiftly to Fagin’s den we meet Fagin giving the boys a cookery lesson as Bill Sikes works out what to do with Oliver who, although tied and gagged still manages to speak. Bill decides he will take Oliver on a job, thereby ensnaring him forever, but Oliver enlists the help of the audience to call for Mamie to come and help him escape, which she does, by scaring Bill and Nancy away.

There is a slapstick chase and again Bill manages to catch up with Oliver and is about to bash him when Fagin, Artful Dodger and gang, plus Brownlow and police, enter. This puts a stop to his villainy. Once again Mamie is on hand to scare Bill Sikes away, this time for good. Oliver then persuades Mr Brownlow to take Fagin on as a chef and Artful Dodger and the others as apprentices in Brownlow’s school of cookery. So everything ends happily.

After a jolly singalong they all meet up at Mr Brownlow’s for a final Christmas party and walkdown, which contains a surprise visit from Bill Sikes.