Director and Choreographer: Tony Adigun
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Think you know the story of Oliver Twist? This hip-hop influenced dance piece choreographed by Tony Adigun gives Dickens’s most famous character some twists of his own to make strange a very familiar tale. Slashing away at the novel’s sentimentality, this is Oliver Twist raised to Shakespearian levels. The result is a thrilling spectacle like no other.
Although they are joined by two youth dance companies for the first explosive scene, the cast for the 2018 version of Fagin’s Twistcomprises only seven members, and after the younger dancers have dispersed into the stalls, five of the seven assume their roles. First, we meet, (the Artful) Dodger, cheeky and a little bit of a show-off, especially in Aaron Nuttall’s hands. He meets Fagin – a tall and elegant Arran Green – and Bill Sykes – a troubled, lonely Stefano A. Addae – in a London workhouse where they jerk rhythmically to the noise of factory machines, and like these machines their movements are clean and precise. They plan their escape and, in order that one day he will be rich enough to buy a brand new pocket-watch, Fagin sets up his band of thieves.
It all seems to be going well until Nancy, and, then Oliver, turn up. Played by Ellis Saul, Nancy is a tragic character and her dance with Bill shows how entangled the pair are as they attract and repulse each other simultaneously. Sia Gbamoi is the young boy with the angelic face and she excels here, fully embodying the role to make a king out of Oliver.
Rather than dance, this is dance theatre, where the dancers/actors speak, narrating the story in stylish rhyme, and their delivery is as tight as their moves, especially that of Green, who gives Fagin a magnetic grace. He tells us how tired he is of being a father figure to all the orphans and urchins of London. Indeed, in the second half, the storytelling takes precedence over the dance, but it’s gripping nevertheless.
The music by Seymour Milton and Benji Power, electronic and piano-based, is played so loudly that it fills The Place with an almost solid sound, and together with Yann Seabra’s ingenious set, three moveable and interlocking wooden shacks, labyrinthine London is both Victorian and modern. Jackie Shemesh’s lights conjure up fogs and candle-lit rooms, adding nicely to the dark atmosphere. This is a slick production, with no weak link.
Adigun should be proud of his team, and it seems criminal that Fagin’s Twist was only in London for two nights. Although Avant Garde Dance, are now embarking on a short English tour, this revisionist version of Oliver Twistdeserves a longer run in the capital. Like Oliver’s food, Fagin’s Twist is glorious.
Reviewed on 26 September 2018 | Image: Rachel Cherry