You know how the adverts for Oliver! advise ringing on the morning to check whether any production tickets have been released? Well, if you're in the position to do it, you should - me and mum speculatively gave the box office a call on Wednesday and managed to snaffle the producers' tickets, slap bang in the middle of the stalls. Not cheap, it has to be said, but a nice way to celebrate handing in the features portfolio for my course.
Now, I've always loved the songs in Oliver!, and while she wasn't my personal choice to win I'd Do Anything, I accept that Jodie Prenger is a really strong performer. But in reality there was one major reason I was determined to see this show before the summer, and his name is Rowan Atkinson. SQUEEITSBLACKADDERFERCHRISSAKES! Blackadder is probably my desert island TV programme, if such a thing exists, and I couldn't really justify missing him.
Suffice to say, he's a total comedy hero, and the strength of affection towards him manifested itself in a spontaneous cheer the moment he first appeared onstage. Unsurprisingly, he stood out a country mile in every scene as a silly and rather camp Fagin, and Reviewing The Situation was a highlight. What a privilige to see Mr Rowan Atkinson performing on his own, commanding the stage! During the interval, I said to mum that what would *really* top it off, would be for him to say the word 'Bob' - and he does! Well, he sings it which unfortunately counteracts that wonderful affect on the word caused by his old stammer, but hey. I've seen Blackadder say 'Bob'.
While Jodie, Burn Gorman and little Welsh Gwion were great, the performance that came the closest to matching Rowan's certainly came from Robert Madge as the Artful Dodger. Robert, although only 11 years old, is actually no stranger to stage or screen, having appeared in That Mitchell and Webb Look and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and that wealth of experience was obvious. The contrast between Dodger's supreme confidence and Oliver's naivity - no doubt enhanced by the difference in the actors' experience - worked really well.
Away from the lead performances, the complex, ever-changing scenery is another star of the show, as always seems to be the case at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane - it's a cavenous stage, and must be a gift/challenge for designers. The show is loads of fun, though the Dickens snob in me (I did study it for ten weeks straight!) means I would have liked it to be a little darker, or at least hint at menace and threat every now and again. Instead, it's a family show through and through, and to that end it is done very, very well.