Oliver is Latrobe Theatre Company’s (LTC) latest musical production. Well actually you could call it a re-production. 21 years ago the theatre group first performed Oliver. This year both people who were in the original production and admirers who saw it star in Oliver 2017. Ashlea Vanyai remembers watching LTC’s original version and “had dreamed of playing the part” of Nancy (Oliver LTC, 2017 program). She personally stood out to me as a character, actor and singer. My favourite songs are hers, her acting is a perfect balance between over-acting (which needed for theatre, particularly musicals) and realism and of course the character of Nancy is tragically likeable.
Of course I can’t mention Nancy without mentioning Bill Sykes, her lover. He is played by Toby Just for whom this is his 2nd production with Latrobe Theatre Company and his second playing a major role. I personally know Toby in real life, so it has been amazing to see his transformation from a really genuinely nice guy to the threatening, controlling, villain of the play. As Bill, Toby becomes someone who has a really controlling nature. This is demonstrated in his own demeanour and how he treats others around him, most importantly his lover. One could say that a modern pop culture equivalent of the whole Bill/Nancy relationship is Harley Quin and the Joker. Although I have to admit the Harley Quin/Joker dynamic is still very different and I probably don’t know quite enough to compare (I’m more of a Marvel fan myself), but the core elements of Bill’s domestic violence, control and Nancy’s almost obsessive devotion (watch out for her song “As Long As He Needs Me”) are very similar. What this demonstrates is the timelessness of these types of characters and how the audience continues to connect with them.
The dynamic of Bill and Nancy’s relationship is extremely well done. This wasn’t just portrayed through what is said, sung or done, but also through what is not said. There is one moment that I remember where Bill Sykes, Nancy and Fagin are arguing then everything stops, nobody moves. I often get told not to use clichés, however you really could cut the tension with a knife. There were other moments too where Bill and Nancy would look at each other and you could just imagine what they must be thinking.
Another character that really must get a mention is Fagin, played by Simon Hemming, who provides plenty of comedic relief. I believe he is one of (if not) the only actors in the show to acknowledge and interact with the audience. He looks and points directly at members at members of the audience; I remember looking at the person next to me and motioning “Yes he looked at you”. Fagin also throws a rat into the audience (don’t worry guys it’s not real). It would take too long to list all the moments in which Hemming made me laugh, smile or giggle, but it’s suffice to say he played his part well.
The ensemble also did really well in the way that these seemingly anonymous characters created their own interesting and engaging storylines. From the adorable orphans to the variety of people on the London streets they all played their part.
Today at 1:30 is your last chance to see this amazing production. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office at the Latrobe Performing Arts Centre in Traralgon . For more information about the show see LTC’s website.
WARNING: This show does have loud music and sound effects and a smoke machine