Date 26th October 2017
Society Stage One Youth Theatre Group
Venue Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Type of Production Musical
Director Jacqui Ivemy
Musical Director Dennis Brombley
Choreographer Matt Newman


Author: Mark Donalds

It is a sign of the maturity of this youth theatre production that it only occurred to me just before the interval that none of the people on stage was over 18 years old.  Any suggestion that youth theatre is somehow irrelevant or inferior would be resoundingly refuted by this top-notch and very professional production of Oliver! by Stage One.

The chorus signing and choreography had obviously been well rehearsed and we were treated to some spectacular set-pieces such as 'Food, Glorious Food', 'Consider Yourself' and 'Pick a Pocket or Two'.  Every person on stage was totally engaged and very obviously giving their all – there must be many directors locally who wish they could instil that degree of enthusiasm and energy into their casts! It is infectious and you find yourself being carried along with all the excitement, such that the show passes in a trice.

A lot of responsibility rests on the young shoulders of the boy who plays Oliver, but Archie Crockett carried off this major role with great self-confidence and assurance. He conveyed just the right amount of innocence and spark, and he sang to perfection. Playing the Artful Dodger opposite him, Samuel Beer was the most perfect swaggering, confident and charming example of this character I have seen – you could easily understand why a frightened young boy would follow him back to Fagin’s lair. He also charmed the audience with his excellent singing voice.

Fagin and Bill Sykes can be difficult roles for younger people to pull off, but Ethan Emery and Kieran Poling did just that, with great style. Ethan made Fagin quite likeable but with a rather sinister undertone, and handled his tricky songs extremely well – I particularly liked the interaction with the violinist. Kieran was a very menacing Bill Sykes and made you feel that violence was just an ill-advised glance away. His diction was excellent and I’ve never heard ‘My Name’ sung so well.

Emily Bassett was a lovely raucous and kind-hearted Nancy, putting across her songs well, especially ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’.  She was well matched with Jasmine Berry, her sidekick Bet. Milo Baker (Mr Bumble) really impressed with the maturity and clarity of his singing voice – and I enjoyed the interaction between him and Annalucia Navato as Widow Corney.

The Sowerberrys were an inspired pairing. Normally minor roles, both Adam Brombley and Mollie Munday made them unforgettable. Adam was suitably funereal and downtrodden while Mollie was fabulously shrewish. You really felt they deserved to be married to each other. I must also congratulate the market sellers (Sian Samways, Siobhan Carroll, Molly Berry, Adam Brombley and Charles Clark) for their beautiful part singing in ‘Who Will Buy’ – a real delight to listen to – and Emily Blackburn (Mrs Bedwin) whose chance to shine in song was short but very sweet!

The simple but flexible set worked really well, with a promenade along the back and one side, plus simple blocks providing different heights, together with well-chosen pictures projected on the backcloth and very atmospheric lighting. Despite this simplicity, the stage crew had to work really hard changing the scenes and although this was a little distracting during Mr Bumble’s song ‘Boy for Sale’, they never hindered the flow of the show, which always maintained a good pace. Costumes were well chosen, giving a good impression of the era.

The twelve piece band under Dennis Brombley’s assured baton, produced a great sound – brassy and loud for the big numbers but subtle for the more intimate moments. A crystal clear sound system ensured we heard every word.

This was another outstandingly good production from Stage One – congratulations to everyone involved.