Words by Lionel Bart and Music by Lionel Bart
The Mayflower,
May 2001
Cast List
Oliver Twist
Mr Bumble
Widow Corney
Mr Sowerberry
Mrs Sowerberry
Noah Claypole
Artful Dodger
Charlie Bates
Mr Brownlow
Bill Sykes
Mrs Bedwin
Dr Grimwig
Old Sally
Old Lady
Rose Seller
Strawberry Seller
Knife Grinder
Long-Song Seller

Notes on this performance

94. Oliver!

Murder! Murder!…

Alan Morgan was one of the main supporters of hiring the Mayflower for Oliver!,  but even he would have been surprised to find himself actually leading the project as Chairman. Alan Marshall had resigned at the AGM stating, ‘The chairman needs to have the full backing of those closest and most involved.’  There were many directors keen to work on Oliver! and Fran Morley and Malcolm Clarke were eventually interviewed by the Committee - Fran’s previous SOS experience was a big factor in her being chosen. Martin Paterson joined her as MD, whilst Anita Pritchard helped with the choreography and the 34 members of the Junior Section.

Initially the show budget looked very tight and, although Alan Morgan negotiated favourable terms with the theatre, the Society would still need to sell £45000 worth of tickets just to break even.  Consequently, posters were to be seen all around the local area, competitive ‘ticket selling teams’ were created and David Rayner pranced around in a big bird suit outside the theatre to advertise the ‘early-bird’ offer! 

Thankfully, with so much at stake, the production was an unqualified success, the Echo reported, ‘This spectacular production involving a cast of more than 80 players, aged from 6 to 60, is a fitting belated celebration to mark the society’s 75th year. This well known tale of Oliver, the orphan, singing his way from misery in the workhouse to eventual happiness with his family, is stylishly directed by Fran Morley.

The production cracks along with wonderful performances. Twelve-year-old Joseph Wright has a good stage presence and sings beautifully, well supported by the youthful (if rather too clean) workhouse children. Alexandra Dunn as Nancy totally engages the audience in her plight. David Rayner’s Fagin uses a powerful voice and comic movement to great effect. Mr and Mrs Bumble, played by Paul Webb and Sandra Pettyfer, perform very amusing duets in the strangest positions! The set is superb and an excellent vehicle for the well choreographed dance routines. Costumes and stage effects create the early Victorian period and atmosphere well.’

In her NODA critique, Margaret Fields echoed these sentiments but added, ‘I was very impressed with Oliver (Joseph Wright), Dodger (Peter Smith) and Charlie (Kirstie McClure). Their three different personalities made their scenes extremely interesting, and they interacted well with Fagin. David Rayner (a rather well fed Fagin!) was excellent – his dialogue and body language were brilliant.’

Somehow the critics ignored the company’s favourite scenes, a very frightening Colin Pritchard (Bill Sykes) terrorising the customers in the inn and a rather bewildered Les Pike proclaiming “Murder! Murder!” after he discovered Nancy’s body.

Happily, the fears of taking Oliver! to the Mayflower and bankrupting the Society were unfounded as ticket sales reached £75127 and, even though this meant paying the theatre £37640 and royalties of £10773, a record profit of £15797 was achieved.

Terry O'Farrell

 Photo of Beadle

Joseph Wright (Oliver Twist) looks down at Paul Webb (Mr Bumble) and Sandra Pettyfer (Widow Corney)

Photo of Fagin

Joseph Wright (Oliver Twist), Kirsty McClure (Charlie Bates), Peter Smith (Artful Dodger), David Rayner (Fagin)

Photo of Inn

Oom-Pah-Pah: Alexandra Dunn (Nancy) on the table

Photo of Bill

Colin Pritchard (Bill Sykes) with David Rayner (Fagin)

Photo of Who will buy

Who Will Buy?: Joseph Wright (Oliver) and Hilary Green (Mrs Bedwin) listen to Helen Cameron (Rose Seller), Mike Pavitt (Knife Grinder), Jo Short (Milkmaid), Sam Sly (Strawberry Seller), Richard Peaty (Long-Song Seller)

Photo of Doctor

Mike Pavitt (Dr Grimwig), Joseph Wright (Oliver Twist), Alan Morgan (Mr Brownlow), Hilary Green (Mrs Bedwin)