Oliver Twist

Date 14th October 2022
Society Winton Players
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Play
Director Roger Wettone


Author: Nadine Darnley de Salis

Walking into the theatre I was immediately taken by the scene - a grey, gloomy,  putrid landscape of Dickens’ Victorian London. Winton Players were celebrating their 75th anniversary with the popular and well known classic story, Oliver Twist. I knew then this was going to be a heavy night! This version of the story was indeed darker in its interpretation than others, as cited in the programme and was unapologetic in its telling.

The scenery was excellent in its simplicity, symbolising the deprivation of the time. (No bright colours and prettiness here!). The idea of recreating on stage and floor level the social conditions of that time encased a tale of poverty, hardship and despair and was spot on.  With the permanant backdrop of a glowering St.Pauls Cathedral I settled in to what turned out to be a very well executed production.

I was very impressed with the lighting effects. Michael Finch had created a wonderful lighting programme which changed the mood of the scene as the story unfolded. I especially liked his use of looming shadows to lend menace and forboding to the proceedings.  The stage crew were subtle and efficient and made light work of changing the scene, 25 scenes in all! I loved the clever use of suggestion which whittled down the time that would have been spent bringing on tables and chairs for example, and not impeding the flow of the scene.

Dicken’s stories are a difficult read at the best of times, never mind learning them by heart and acting it out to an audience! There were one, maybe two occasions when I noticed insecurity and hesitance in delivering a line but this was not made obvious and the cast picked it up quickly and carried on. There were many cast members who played their characters extremely well, bringing them to life and making them believable - thieves, whores, vagabonds and opportunists and the good and charitable monied classes. As the show had 38 members in the cast it would be too much to start mentioning them individually here, as much as I would love to give individual credit but suffice to say, they all played their characters with precision, their quirks, gait, habitual sayings, accents and temperaments were very convincing. I did have difficulty on a few occasions in hearing some cast as their voices dropped toward the end of their sentences, at the last half of a two syllabled word or when the music or sound affects were too loud, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the evening.

I must mention the young actors though, in particular Jasper Hawes, who played Oliver with confidence and clearly had a good understanding of this major role. They were all so impressive with their acting skills and talent shining through in what is a very wordy and difficult script. On point for the entirety of the show they gave credence to their roles and appeared very comfortable and confident on the stage.  They are the next generation of Players coming up through the ranks and if that is the quality that is already apparent then they will be outstanding assets for Winton Players.

The Director, Roger Wettone, has creative vision, a keen eye for detail and an excellent  ability in harnessing the talent of his cast and crew. The costumes were impressive, good quality and accurate for the period, props well sourced and from what I have learned there were as many involved off stage as there were on, in creating together a wonderful production of a moral tale where good overcomes bad and good things can happen despite the societal issues of the time.

Well done everyone for a marvellous, well received production and as I have now given my review I hope that you are not one ‘whose opinions they’d rather not hear even though they know they have them’! as someone famous once said.

Nadine Darnley De Salis
District 10 Deputy Representative