Oliver Twist, Durham Market Hall

PROMENADE theatre can be tricky. From sightlines, to scene placement, to acoustics, there are a myriad of things to go wrong. Front Room Productions – Durham Student Theatre, successfully navigate these potential pitfalls by producing dynamic, touching and truly engaging scenes. Additionally, its inspired choice of venue, the historical Market Hall, was transformed out of its normal operating hours into a suitably bleak, chilling and authentic setting for the narrative.

Charles Dickens’ classic novel has been masterfully adapted by director Olivia Race, aided by some beautiful original music by Durham alumnus Rob Collins, performed by a troupe of talented musicians. Inspired scene placements utilised the quirks of the venue wonderfully: each scene was set in a way which worked well both aesthetically and in the wider logistics of the show. The audience were led from scene to scene by the characters themselves, meaning they were never left confused as to what they should be doing next – something which can be an issue in immersive pieces. Credit must go to producers Penny Babakhani, Genevieve Burns and Dominic McGovern for beautiful costumes and props (all fitting with the period), and impressive logistics.

The characters were played by a cast of wonderful actors, in which there was no weak link. The titular character was brought to life by Jenny Walser, accompanied by fantastic performances from Clementine Medforth (Rose), Elle Morgan-Williams (The Artful Dodger), Tristan Robinson (Bill Sikes), Sarah Slimani (Nancy) and Michael Yates (Fagin). Special mentions must go to Slimani and Yates for flawless characterisation and commitment to character throughout.

* Productions run tonight (Friday, April 29) and tomorrow (Saturday, April 30) at 7pm and 8.30pm respectively.

Durham Student Theatre box office, at https://community.dur.ac.uk/dst/show.php?show=1333.


Charlotte Thomas