Date 4th May 2017
Society Berwick-upon-Tweed Amateur Operatic Society
Venue The Maltings. Berwick-upon-Tweed
Type of Production Musical
Director Lisa Summers and Laura Catterall
Musical Director Ron Creasey
Choreographer Sheila Bradford


Author: Michael L. Avery

The durable favourite that is ‘Oliver!’ received an exuberant outing from Berwick Operatic Society, before a large audience, clearly not comprising just parents of the children involved, confirming the show’s perennial appeal.  With characters of all ages, the show involves a wide range of performers and most roles were played by age-appropriate performers although I did find the obvious age difference between Nancy (Kirsty Jamieson) and Bet (Freya Simpson) a little surprising at first.  Both, however, played their parts well and got over what was, to me, an unusual pairing.  The children enthusiastically entered into the spirit of the piece, including one little girl who proudly removed her boyish disguise with a flourish, during the bows, to show she was really a girl!

Directors Lisa Summers and Laura Catterall used the entire auditorium and stage throughout the production, often having the children enter and exit, quite noisily (intentionally, I think) down and up the aisles.  Sets, lighting and sound enhanced proceedings considerably.  The orchestra of just nine musicians, under the baton of Ron Creasey, were perfectly in keeping with the performance, never overpowering the singers and actors.

The orphans presented a rousing opening with Food Glorious Food.  Sandra Storey and Steve Sadler amused as Widow Corney and the henpecked Beadle, Mr Bumble. Ian Lawson was a beguiling Fagin, sometimes loveable, sometimes worrying, training a rather clean bunch of ragamuffins, aided by a tall (especially with that hat on), quite gangly Dodger (Sam Rogers).  Nancy and Bet led the pub in an enthusiastic ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ and Nancy’s ‘As Long As Needs Me’ was really quite moving although the depth of the relationship between her and the brutish Bill Sikes (Evan Duthie) never really came across to me.  A further highlight was Fagin’s ‘Reviewing The Situation’.  The bullying Bill Sikes (with dog Bullseye sporadically in tow) was convincingly portrayed; a character in complete contrast to the innocent, though occasionally feisty Oliver (Corey Learmouth).  In almost the final scene art imitated life when Evan’s elbow caught Corey’s nose which resulted in the lad taking his bows with a huge red handkerchief and a persistently bleeding nose on this particular evening.  However, he carried it off with considerable aplomb.  More minor roles were well played and contributed considerably to a most enjoyable evening.

Regional Councillors comments:
The parts of Oliver, Dodger and Bet were played on alternative performances by Levin Bell, Morgan Flannigan and Edith Bell respectively of which I was fortunate to see on my visit - Levin played his role really well with good diction throughout, Morgan was your typical 'cheeky chappie' natured Dodger and moved and sang well. Edith despite her youthful age commanded the role and grasped the opportunity that the small role gave her.