Date 19th April 2024
Society South Manchester AOS
Venue Z-ARTS
Type of Production Musical
Director Kevin Proctor
Musical Director Thomas Guest
Choreographer Kevin Proctor
Written By Lionel Bart


Author: Liz Hume-Dawson

Lionel Bart’s Oliver! . . .as it says in the programme notes one of the most performed musicals, indeed this is the fourth time for South Manchester as they celebrate 70 years next year as a society.

The set being a dual steep staircase with mezzanine top made of wood and centre stage. With video screen at the back to support the scenes. Showing the title of the show at the beginning then various pictures like St Paul’s, a Regency crescent of houses and the inside of a market hall. The cast were used then to change scenes making smooth transitions to streets, the Workhouse, The Sowerberry’s funeral parlour, Mr Brownlow’s house and various others. Lighting added to the atmosphere with smoke effect and loved the food steaming as it went through the dinner hall while the workhouse boys drooled on. Costumes all looked appropriate and in keeping - I did note Nancy had no jewellery and natural nails - no gel, which all added to authenticate her character.  

Musical Director Thomas Guest leads the wonderful orchestra through Lionel Bart’s amazing score with his capable hands. Reed 1 - Simon Mercer-Murray, Reed II Andy Bickerton, Bassoon - Susan Goffee, Horn - Kate King, Trumpet - Tristan Boldy, Trombone - David Britch, Percussion - Dan Bennett, Piano - Steven Mercer-Murray and Bass - Joshua Cavanagh-Brierley.

Director and Choreographer was Kevin Proctor. I personally thought the choreography was excellent, it’s great to see something different but still in keeping with the era. Incorporating movement and dance the stage was filled with pure joy. Consider Yourself was outstanding and will stay with me for a long time - the interpretation of the music and the slow motion was a great touch with added colour wash from side lighting. Fantastic. The use of the cast to change the set and the use of levels worked well too. Although I did have my hand in my mouth at times when people were coming down the stairs and some did walk down gingerly when they should have been confident. The beginning when we see Oliver Twist’s Mother was a great touch and helps set the scene and give credence when Sally played by Barbara Simpson admits to taking the locket. Also seeing her again through the song Where is Love?  was a lovely touch.  I also liked the scene with Fagin when the violin was almost talking to him. Very funny.

Beth Abram played Agnes, Rachel Cocker played Matron, Laurence McDonald played Charlie Bates, Tom Farnworth played Policeman. Faye Allison played Mrs Bedwin, Kallum Edwards played Dr Grimwig. Freia Reidel-Fisher played Rose Seller. Sarah Peach played Strawberry Seller. David Steggles played Knife Grinder and Lynsey Steel played Maid.

Ian Moore played kindly Mr Brownlow and Hannah Kitching Bet. Sonny Jim Kelly played Nipper. Mr Bumble played by the silk-toned singer Steve Sheppard and Rebekah Davies as a mischievous Widow Corney were a great duo - loved the double entendre played out in the scene. Great energy. The funeral parlour scene with suitable death-looking characters David Barker played Mr Sowerberry, Philippa Shellard Ross played Mrs Sowerberry. Holly Ireland played Charlotte and Loui Quelcutti played mean Noah Claypole.  The distasteful bacon eating worked with Noah and Charlotte. No wonder Oliver ran away. Jake Ashworth as Artful Dodger looked the part and worked well with Oliver and Fagin.

Elizabeth Lovelady Roberts was Nancy and looked the part, her mothering instinct toward Oliver and her love for Bill was evident. As Long As He Needs Me was beautiful. Great work.  The title role Oliver Twist was played by Jasper Eglin. An innocence about him which works for the role yet able to stand up for himself when needed. Lovely. Good to see the youth  chorus being given a chance as South Manchester build their youth section and hope this bodes well for the future. Richard Ross as Fagin really looked to relish playing the part, Reviewing The Situation was great and I discovered bits about the song I had not noticed before - as mentioned above loved the interaction with the violin and Richard really told the story through song. Great performance.

Alex Re as Bill Sykes was a brilliant piece of casting - not your usually massive-build bloke, but boy you got the sense you would not mess with him. His first scene when he doesn’t speak but you feel the menace around him worked really well. It shows if it comes from within it emits out and Elizabeth as Nancy could work with this to bring a believability about the relationship.

Last but not least Lola as Bullseye, what a performer not frightened by the bangs and well-behaved on stage I hope she got extra hugs and biscuits.

South Manchester must be delighted with this show and it’s is evident all the hard work that has gone into the show. Thank you for the invitation and hospitality from my guest Matthew and I.


Liz Hume-Dawson

District 5 Rep