Oliver - performed May 1981

By Lionel Bart

Performed with the kind permission of Musicscope Ltd

Director - Dennis Murfitt


(in order of appearance)

Oliver Guy Pollard
Mr Bumble, The Beadle Stan West
Widow Corney Val Taylor
Mr Sowerberry Adrian Rowe
Mrs Sowerberry Vivienne Wheatley
Charlotte Frances Brown
Noah Claypole Ed King
Artful Dodger Kevin Brown
Fagin Dennis Murfitt
Nancy Janet Green
Bet Alison Pollard
Bill Sykes Nigel Rowe
Mr Brownlow Herbert Yeates
Dr Grimwig Peter Talbot-Ashby
Mrs Bedwin Judy Hussey
Old Sally Joan Yeates
Workhouse boys and girls and Fagin's gang Dean Begent
Philip Bruce
Lucy Ainger
Julia and Sara Wilshaw
Jonathan Taylor
Jason Ball
Deana Hargreave
Claire Mann
Trevor De'Ath
Polly Hubbard
Duncan Steele
Stephen Sadler
Heather Steele
Sarah and Natalie Gladwin
Shane Chapman
Charlotte Parsons
Jenny Rose
Street Chorus, runner, watchman, Hussar, Street Sellers and tradesman Janet Cousins
Adrian Bolton
Sally Mann
Vicki Regan
Bill, Brenda and Sally Chapman
Amanda Lowater
Pamela Talbot-Ashby
Richard Ling
Yvonne Cobbold

Production Team

Patience Ling, Paddy Verstage, Gordon Lee, Peter Westbrook, Jenny Rollings, Bill Kempster, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Kevin Brown, Christine and Peter Potter, June Wendon, Olwen Tullet, Sybil Morgan, Mary Killick, Pamela Talbot-Ashby, Janet Cousins, Dennis Murfitt, Derek Cobbold, Geoffrey Taylor, Val Taylor, Sally Mann, Jack Hacon, Ian Tucker, Wynn Long, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Musical

Oliver Twist is a young boy who lives in a workhouse with other orphaned boys. When Oliver disrupts a meal by asking for more, he is sold to a local undertaker and his family. They treat Oliver horribly and make him sleep under the coffins. Oliver escapes and runs off to Paddington Green, where he quickly befriends another young boy, the Artful Dodger. Dodger takes him to his home, an academy for orphans who learn how to be pick-pockets run by a kind, yet slightly sinister, old gentleman named Fagin. Oliver is also introduced to Nancy Sikes, a loveable young woman, and Bet, Nancy's best friend. When Oliver goes on his first pick-pocketing job, he is caught by the police. The man that Oliver thieved, Mr. Brownlow, learns of Oliver's sad past and brings him into his own home. Meanwhile, Nancy's husband (the villainous Bill Sikes) worries that Oliver will tell Mr. Brownlow and the police where the thieves live. He forces Nancy and Bet to snatch Oliver from Mr. Brownlow's house and take him back to Fagin's. Nancy does everything her husband tells her to but plans on secretly taking Oliver back to Mr. Brownlow. Before she can do so, Bill finds out of his wife's plans, and murders her. He then goes after Oliver, but is shot and killed. Oliver and Mr. Brownlow, who turns out to be Oliver's grandfather, return safely home.


From time to time, as I am wont to say, dramatic societies have a rush of blood to the head and, "recking naught of danger," as Toad might proclaim, plunge into a musical – only to find to the chagrin that the genre is beyond them in terms of singing and musical resources.
No such problems of regrets here! Dennis Murfitt's lively cast seemingly all had voices of some note and vigorous sustained attack both on the familiar Lionel Bart numbers and the larger-than-life gallery of immortal Dickens grotesques and drolls in a gorgeously dressed, cleverly set production that fairly hummed with zest and vitality.

Valerie Taylor was marvellously full blown as the rat-trap mouthed Widow Corney in what for me was the best single performance in a evening studded and starred with buoyed-up acting and wove some intricate playing with Stan West’s splendidly sung, slimline Beadle, while Adrian Rowe carried out the last rites effectively as an unctuous almost Dracula-like Mr Sowerberry and Vivienne Wheatley was sharply acidulous as his wife.
The director himself, unrecognisable behind the nose-putty and lank hair, set a first rate standard for others to emulate with his crafty, greasy Fagin and it says volumes for his talents as actor and producer that the characterisation scarcely suffered in relation to his responsibility for movement, positioning and choreography of the show as a whole.
Janet Green made a storming fiery Nancy, belting out her songs like a magaphonic music hall act but I wish she had sought more for the light and shade that is in the part. Nigel Rowe was a truly fearsome Bill Sykes and Kevin Brown a specious Artful Dodger.
Guy Pollard sang the name part hauntingly and touchingly and acted engagingly as did his real life sister Alison as Bet and I liked Ed King’s smart-Alec, conceited Noah Claypole.
Jimmy James

With no stage, curtains or footlights, the Manifest Theatre Group at Manningtree brings "Oliver" close enough for the audience to be part of.
This makes Lionel Bart’s heart-rending musical very powerful stuff. The tears are near enough to see and the sheer evil of Fagin’s lair almost too close.
With the action ranging from the violent and cruel to the tender and occasionally amusing, this kind of theatre in the round makes an unusual impact.
The singing is full-throated and well-rehearsed with some first-rate personal performances.

The main part is taken by Guy Pollard, a Clacton 13-year old who had already played Amahl in "The Night Visitors" in professional theatre with great sensitivity. Guy and his sister Allison, who had solo opportunities as Bet, both have sweet voices.
Denis Murfitt, producer and set designer, makes a superb Fagin, sordid clown of the thieves' kitchen "Who's Got to Pick a Pocket or Two".
Nigel Rowe gives a fierce portrayal of the sinister Bill Sykes, making a display of terror easy for the carefully-selected bunch of urchins in Fagin's gang. Janet Green’s spirited characterisation of Nancy, the passionate and rumbustious beauty from the slums, makes her star of the show. She has an excellent voice and her growing confidence makes her a valuable member of this unusual small-town team.
Valerie Taylor shines as Mrs. Bumble and Kevin Brown makes a loveable Artful Dodger.
The 20 children enter into the spirit of the show with great enthusiasm. The excellent effect of the staging reflects on Bruce Emeny and Maurice Barber of the lighting department and on Patience Ling, musical director and co-pianist with Paddy Verstage.

What more should one say in praise of the Manifest Theatre Group? To continually applaud its efforts must surely make the players either conceited or suspicious that the words are not entirely genuine.
But the Manningtree-based group has undoubtedly scored another big success with its production of Oliver, which opened at the former Legion Hall in South Street on Sunday. This is the group’s sixth production and all its efforts have received well deserved acclaim. Such is the standing of the group now, that all the tickets for the play for the play, which continues until tomorrow, were sold within two hours of going on sale. Sunday's performance was an “extra” to enable the performers' families and friends to see the show.
What a pity there is nowhere larger in the area where the group can stage its production so that more people could enjoy the work of this talented company. And enjoy is definitely the operative word. For it is the group's ability in conveying to the audience that everyone of them is thoroughly enjoying what they are doing that adds to the audiences’ own enjoyment.
Then there is the attention to details of costume and lighting and the way the stagehands set and clear props quickly and silently in virtual darkness – in all a real team effort. Although not the first musical staged by the group, this is the first time children have been included in the cast – 21 in all.
There is a saying about not appearing with children or animals and the adults were almost overshadowed by the youngster – almost but not quite. One of the adult stars was Janet Green as the rather coarse and common Nancy, a role so completely opposite her own character but one she portrayed quite splendidly.
Producer, director and choreographer Dennis Murfitt recreated Ron Moody's Fagin and gave another of the excellent performances he has become noted for.
There were also fine performances from Kevin Brown, Nigel Rowe, Vivienne Wheatley, Valerie Taylor and Stan West as respectively the Artful Dodger, Bill Sykes, Mrs Sowerberry, Widow Corney and Mr Bumble.
This title role was taken by 13-years-old Guy Pollard, whose singing was a feature of the production. His 12-year-old sister Alison was Bet. Both youngsters are hoping for stage careers and have been acting for several years, Guy's first show being at the age of 5½ and Alison’s at four. Alison, who auditioned for the new London stage production of The Sound of Music, reaching the last few out of more than 2,000, has appeared in professional pantomimes with John Inman and Windsor Davies.
Lesley Pallet

Photo Shoot