The Spiegeltent is a far cry from the workhouse and rarely can a setting have been better used than in this stunning production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! by Captivate Theatre. The group started life as an after school class for children in and around west Edinburgh in 2011. It is now a dynamic company of actors, musicians and technicians providing performance opportunities for young people and, I would imagine, also changing lives.

The show might have been around a long time and become rather old hat but I guarantee this production will leave you wanting more.

This is an original production with no attempt to copy what has gone before on stage or in the film. Effectively, The Spiegeltent is the set, with just a few adaptable boxes onstage. With a circular aisle around the audience and another running through the middle the audience is at the heart of the entrances and exits and in the midst of the action. The opening Food Glorious Food maximises its potential and establishes the vocal quality of the chorus.

The role of Oliver is shared. Today was Harry Manson’s turn, and with his blonde hair and innocent looks he fits the part perfectly. His difficulties with changes from upper to lower register are concerning at first but ultimately become predictable and slightly endearing. David Bartholemew provides a refreshingly restrained interpretation of Mr Bumble while maintaining the role’s traditional characteristics. He is well matched by Sarah-Louise Donnelly as the Widow Corney. Together they a exude a youthful amorosity which oozes naughtiness.

Les Fulton and Shona Cowie work well together as Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry, romping through That's Your Funeral at a pace probably never achieved before. There is little that’s morbid about it; rather it seems like just another day in the office, all of which they have done many times before. Now in their employ Oliver could have settled down to his new career had he not been menacingly provoked by Aidan Cross as Noah Claypole Alex Gavin oozes confidence and gives an outstanding performance as Dodger, taking complete control of his scenes and consummately leading Consider Yourself. Charlie Munro has classic Fagin features and is ably assisted by enhancing makeup and a suitably shabby coat. He is as mischievous, eccentric and evil as ever in his lively rendition of You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two yet seemingly genuine and truly reflective in Reviewing the Situation. His was another performance that held back from the excesses to which actors sometimes fall victim in this role. Meg Laird-Drummond, as Nancy, is the vocal powerhouse of this production. The soft tones she uses to introduce As Long as He Needs Me eventually yield to a fulsome forte that fills the tent in a performance that is both both sturdy and tragic. John Bruce plays an understated Bill Sykes, but ensures that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

The use of a live sixteen-piece band gives enormous energy to this production and under the musical directorship of Tommie Traverse ensures that it moves at a breathtaking pace. Radio mics benefit all performers but they are also gifted with clear enunciation that ensures everything can be heard and understood. Director Sally Lyall has done a remarkable job with this large scale production, ensuring it has plenty oom-pah-pah. The show might have been around a long time and become rather old hat but I guarantee this production will leave you wanting more.

Reviews by Richard Beck


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The Blurb

Captivate Theatre brings Lionel Bart's timeless musical to life. Featuring a large cast and a live 16-piece orchestra, you'll be left wanting more! 'A truly incredible piece of theatre which is able to hold the audience… and finish with what may be the best deserved standing ovation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe' (TheReviewsHub.com, Les Misérables 2015). 'Wonderful and impressively professional… staging, lighting and costumes were all spectacular… thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable night's theatre showcasing some highly impressive talent in all areas' (EdFringeReview.com, Oliver!, 2013). www.captivatetheatre.com