Oliver

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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Oliver Originally by Lionel Bart "" Adapted by Northern Theatre Company I went to see Oliver at the Hull New Theatre on Wednesday 23rd November 2000. It was performed by Northern Theatre Company.

A short summary of Oliver would be; a boy from a workhouse travelled to London to "˜seek his fortune'. He became involved with a band of pickpockets, other young boys in similar situations to him. They were led by a man named Fagin. Fagin had two main associates named Nancy and Bill. Oliver got caught picking pockets and was taken to live with a wealthy man named Mr. Brownlow after he was found innocent. It turned out that Oliver and this man were related. Bill kidnapped Oliver in case he told the police of Fagin's band of pickpockets. Nancy realised that what Bill and Fagin were doing was wrong and told Mr. Brownlow that she would bring Oliver back to him if he met her at the stroke of midnight.

Bill found out about this plan and chased after Nancy. He was very angry with her and this resulted in the death of Nancy. Bill too ended up dying after he was chased by police over Nancy's death. Oliver went to live with Mr. Brownlow and Fagin went on to start a new band of pickpockets with his most faithful "˜employee' the Artful Dodger.

The storyline was adapted well and showed various themes including the differences between the rich and the poor. This was shown especially well by Bill and Mr. Brownlow. We were able to observe the different ways in which they spoke, interacted with others and the way in which their own mannerisms and body language showed status and helped us develop a better understanding of their characters. For example, Bill spoke in a lower-class cockney accent whereas Mr. Brownlow spoke with an upper-class accent showing their different upbringings and social status.

I don't think Oliver can be put into a particular genre, it is a classic and also a musical and therefore full of songs, there is also a lot of comedy incorporated into this piece.

Sound effects weren't really used much throughout the show but in my opinion, they weren't really needed. The few that were used were adequate for the performance. When there was no sound on stage it created tension amongst the actors where necessary and this relayed back to the audience. In the scene where Nancy was killed, everyone was silent as they gathered around her and this intimated to the audience that something terrible had happened.

Music was used well throughout the production, not only in the musical score, but in other areas as well. It was used effectively to create atmosphere, show emotion and to help with pace changes. If there was a dramatic scene, loud sounds would be applied to help emphasise the drama. Emotions would be shown through music as it was slowed down if the character was depressed or upset about something and speeded up if the character became excited or confused. In the scene where Fagin sang "˜Reviewing the Situation', the music gradually changed pace to a faster beat as he became more and more excited. The music helped a lot with the pace because it could be speeded up for scenes where there was a lot of action and slowed down for scenes with little movement.

Although the backdrop of the set seemed quite simple it fitted well with the performance. It was a well designed set as it was the same throughout the show but seemed to fit well with each scene and never looked out of place. Props were sometimes added to the original set such as handkerchiefs in the scenes in Fagin's home but the original set never altered. The set had different levels and this was effective especially in the scenes with musical numbers because it helped the stage look busier then it was and thus induced a livelier atmosphere.

Props were used but only when necessary as many of the performers were young and the lack of props helped avoid accidents on stage. The props that were used helped mainly with characterisation. Things they were carrying or wearing helped to communicate to audience the type of character they were. Bill Sykes carried a large stick around with him for a lot of the production this emphasised that he was a mean man and did not care who he hurt as the constant carrying of the stick portrayed that he was always ready for a fight. Mr. Brownlow carried a pocket watch and this showed his wealth.

Costumes were excellent and exactly how I would have expected them to be. They used costume to show social status and some of the costumes even seemed to symbolise aspects of the play. Mr. Brownlow wore a smart suit and this showed that he was of a higher class than others that wore less lavish costumes. Although compared to Bill Sykes Mr. Brownlow was evidently the wealthiest, when Bill was surrounded by Fagin and the other pickpockets, his costume seemed to suggest that he was of a higher class than they were. This needed to be obvious because I think that it was trying to suggest to the audience that the rest of the gang respected Bill and that he was in some way their idol. The Artful Dodger wore a top hat and nobody else did other than Bill Sykes. I think this was to symbolise that Dodger was the best pickpocket and the closest to being as 'skilled' as Bill. The boys at the beginning of the play who were in the warehouse all wore the same tatty clothes. I think this was to symbolise that they were all poor and treated badly but also to show that they were all treated the same.

Lighting was used in this performance not only to illuminate the stage but to help create atmosphere, show emotion and to help focus. When trying to create a particular atmosphere, different coloured lights were used. For example, when Oliver was feeling sad, a blue light was often used to emphasise the fact that he was feeling "˜blue' and depressed. When he was speaking or singing of his mother, a red light was used to show the love he felt for her because in everyday life we often associate the colour red with love and passion. The lighting helped the audience to focus on particular characters by having a spotlight on them so that we knew which character we were meant to be observing. It also showed us the time of day by using bright lights for daytime and blue lights to signify nighttime and coldness.

The performers in this production were overall very good. They had obviously worked hard and it paid off on the night. They seemed very realistic and none of them forgot lines nor even sounded unsure of them. They used their voices well and projected them out to the audience. Their diction and clarity was good which made the script easy to understand. There were moments when some characters started speaking rather quickly and the fast pace made it difficult for them to fully pronounce their words and therefore difficult for the audience to understand them but this was only a small minority. All the performers seemed aware of the size of the stage and had knowledge of how to use the large space. Even when there were only two characters on the stage it seemed as though there were many others showing good knowledge of spacial awareness.

The direction of the play was excellent. The movements of the actors coincided well with script and there was never too much nor too little action, it was always in good balance. There were no unnecessary movements or fidgeting from the actors, every movement had a purpose whether it be to pick something up or just to make a gesture. It was apparent that it had been well thought out and this planning was worth the effort.

The choreography worked well within this production. Allowances probably had to made because the dancers were often carrying props but these minor problems had been dealt with and the out come displayed this. The dancing fit in well with the period of the play and research had obviously been done into the style of the time to help portray a realistic feel to the audience. The choreography often helped with pace as the dances were fast when need be and slow when it was necessary to have less action on stage. They helped create atmosphere as did the lighting and these often worked in harmony to create a more emotive atmosphere then they would have done singularly.

This theatre was well suited to the performance as it had just the right size auditorium, enough seats but not big enough for the actors voices to be lost and unheard. There was also a reasonably sized stage, big enough for all the company to fit on but not too big for when there was only one character on stage. The stage was set back from the audience and if there had been a lot of audience participation this would not have worked well but as there wasn't any it was fine. The acoustics were good so the singing did not fade away it reached across in to the audience making it easy to hear. The seating was raked so everyone could see easily.

The audience seemed to really enjoy this show and this enjoyment was displayed through the standing ovation at the end of the performance. There was a varied number of young and old watching and it seemed to be a universal success. There were adequate facilities so that the disabled could come and appreciate the show as much as everyone else did. The audience seemed to be as enthusiastic as the performers.

In my opinion this was one best performances I have seen. I thought that the actors were all well suited to their characters and that the effort they put in was phenomenal. They all seemed to love every minute. The lighting created just the right atmosphere needed throughout the play, as did the costume, props and set.