Few works of literature achieve such success as a musical as Oliver! – however, with such iconic status comes audience expectations that can often restrict new interpretations.
In an effort to see what EUSOG’s latest production has to offer, I caught up with some of the cast and crew.
It is clear that for director Erica Belton that this was an opportunity she could not resist. Her passion and detailed approach are reciprocated by those around her; with evident warmth and mutual respect between cast and crew.
During the interview, Belton sits flanked on either side by Theresa Cripps, (Assistant Producer), Douglas Stephenson (Producing Assistant) and Yann Davies (Oliver) almost like her own Victorian gang – albeit a much friendlier one.
It is clear everyone buys into Belton’s vision of, “trying to unite Dickens’ original vision in the show”. The word ‘depth’ is used frequently and her desire to remain true to the original literary work allows her to shape a production that explores the characters psychology and is darker in its portrayal of Victorian London.
Belton’s attention to detail is evident as she refers to the social horrors of Victorian London and Dickens’ own experience of working for a man similar to Fagin. In this interpretation, Oliver is 18 years old – a feature which cast and crew sees as allowing deeper characterisation and adds a new dynamic to the relationships between characters. When asked about the challenges faced through gender blind casting in such an iconic story, there is a clear admiration in the ability of each actor to overcome the tropes associated with certain characters.
This, according to Stephenson, is what gives their production its “gritty and visceral” edge. Belton herself makes note of her desire to broaden and deepen the understanding of the female characters whose complexity often gets lost in other productions.
Communication and discussion are of paramount importance to Belton, and Davies is full of praise for her ability to build a character with the actors as opposed to imposing a dogmatic vision. Through extensive character work and an acute attention to detail, including encouraging the ensemble to give their characters names and a background, Belton leaves no stone unturned in uniting every element under her vision.
It is clear Belton is surrounded by like-minded individuals behind the scenes who share her vision and her work ethic. Cripps and Stephenson express admiration for the efficiency of their producer – Tabitha James – and Belton’s respect for the work of the Tech and Staging team is palpable, reflecting that this is a well-oiled machine working towards something rather unique.
One feels this production will leave the audience begging for more.
Consider yourself invited!
A discount of £1 per ticket is available for bookings groups of 10+ by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org
Runs from 28th November to 2nd December
Photo Credit: Andrew Perry