Tony Adigun’s smart street-dance reimagining of Dickens’s Oliver Twist switches the focus of the tale – here instead we have Fagin and Bill Sikes on a well-trodden criminal trajectory: from friends in adversity to partners in crime to ambition-consumed enemies. And – for the twist – we see a whole other version of Dickens’s little butter-wouldn’t-melt ingénue, Oliver.
This is dance-theatre that’s heavy on the spoken word, with Aaron Nuttall’s Dodger as our narrator – and some of the text, by Maxwell Golden, is very ponderous. A shame, because Adigun’s ability to map emotions on to bodies and tell a story through movement is striking; a fair bit of clunky dialogue and/or monologue could be dropped and you would still be completely absorbed in the tale of Fagin’s pickpocketing gang.
Yann Seabra’s versatile wooden set, bathed in Jackie Shemesh’s evocative lighting, is swung and spun round to quickly create all manner of grimy settings. The impressive cast of seven dancers range from long-limbed Arran Green, who makes an imposing, charismatic Fagin, through to tiny Sia Gbamoi as a brilliantly shape-shifting Oliver. They draw on a mix of street dance styles, all well deployed: popping and locking to depict mechanical workhouse grind; flashes of highly acrobatic breaking; and, most movingly, Stefano A Addae’s frantic bursts of krump, which perfectly convey Bill Sikes’s fury, frustration and sadness.
Adigun proves adept at choreographing both stage-filling group scenes and more intimate moments: there’s a lovely duet between Gbamoi and Ellis Saul as Nancy, using a constantly moving table as a prop; and Nancy and Bill’s final impassioned, doomed encounter brims with urgency. The final “twist” is as dark and witty as the rest of this enjoyable production, which has inventive fun with our notions of heroes and villains.