The Cast of Unexpected Twist - Unexpected Twist - Photo Credit Manuel Harlan

Review: Unexpected Twist

Review: Unexpected Twist

The tale of Oliver Twist is given a modern update


Mobile phones, a money-laundering market stall and beatboxing – welcome to the contemporary world of Oliver Twist. This modern interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic, by children’s author Micheal Rosen, has been adapted for the stage as a high-energy musical and it packs a powerful punch.

Wrapping a story within a story, we meet a class of teens who are reading Oliver Twist in their English lesson. Shona (Drew Hylton) starts at the school and, drawn in by the promise of a mobile phone by a classmate, she’s soon embroiled in a criminal gang. As per Dickens’ tale, the kids are dirt-poor, the teacher’s life mirrors that of Nancy, and Nan is a Fagan-esque character that has the ‘hood doing her bidding. Shona is the modern-day Oliver. Her mother has died and her father is struggling to keep it together, emotionally and financially.

The idea is clever and showing the modern parallels is interesting. At points though, it can feel a little contrived, and some of the characters too much of a stereotype. For example, we get that Nan is a Cockney but there are just so many lines done in rhyming slang that it grates.

But where this production succeeds is in its sheer energy, the music and the cast – watch this space as there’s some serious young talent here.

Featuring mainly rap along with a few ballads, the music is very well done (although a couple of  the songs have some very naff rhyming going on). But for the most part, they really work and the cast – particularly Drew Hylton whose vocal range is just awesome – carry them off brilliantly. Shout out too for the beatboxing.

Rose Theatre, until 19 March

Image: Manuel Harlan