Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oliver Twist

Last night we went to Oliver Twist at the Berkeley Rep. Very interesting production--reminded me of Nicholas Nickleby in the multiple forms of narrative, the doubling and tripling of characters, and the incorporating of scene changes into the action.
The promo describes the adaptation as:
"Inspired by the vivid world of the Victorian music-hall, Neil Bartlett’s staging of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist uses the original language of Dickens’ novel to dramatize one of the most deeply felt stories ever written about childhood. A cast of unforgettable characters brings the underworld of 19th-century London to thrilling life—a city teeming with danger and fear—all seen through the eyes of an astonished child."
So that Victorian music-hall was represented by a stage that was a wooden box full of things that popped up, doors and trapdoors on all surfaces that opened and closed in multiple ways, signs and banners that hid the stage for just a moment.
One of the actors was a superb violinist who used the violin as his part in the chorus--he was one of Fagin's crew for the most part. But all the actors became a Greek chorus throughout--even singing or chanting Dicken's words when appropriate.
Oliver was portrayed as the "principle of goodness" and I really got that he wasn't a person, simply a principle around which the other characters reacted--Fagin wants to use that goodness to make a profit, Bill simply doesn't care, Nancy wants to save him (and, actually, she is the character that changes the most around that principle), and so on. But the character isn't really a person, just an ideal.
The story was told through reading from the book (the same character who played Artful Dodger did the reading) while the characters acted or posed, through the chorus and pageant, and through acting. And the play progressed and the Artful Dodger became more character and less narrator, the book narration faded out.
Having trouble finding more to say--really should have posted this last night when it was fresher, but so it goes...

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