Lancaster Outdoor Summer Theatre Break: Oliver Twist

This summer there are plenty of twists and turns at Williamson Park in Lancaster as The Dukes returns with another spectacular outdoor walkabout theatre production – Oliver Twist – from 3rd July until 15th August 2015.

2014’s productions of Hansel & Gretel and More Tales From The Forest saw The Dukes reach the milestone of attracting 500,000 people to the park shows since they began in 1987. I’m sure as many will return for another season of outdoor theatre to enjoy this Charles Dickens adaptation.

Dickens’ wonderful characters – Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Nancy, Bill Sikes and the hideous Mr Bumble – lead the audience on a journey through the magical open-air setting of Williamson Park transformed into Victorian England with a Northern twist.

The Dukes present Oliver Twist in Lancaster's Williamson Park until August 15
Oliver (Jerome Thompson) and Mrs Sowerberry (Shelley Atkinson) with the backdrop of Ashton Memorial

At first it might seem strange telling a story which is set in the urban landscape of London and transporting it to the beauty of Williamson Park. However, the story’s two worlds are depicted really well, the grandeur of Ashton Memorial serving as a magnificent back drop of The Brownlow Residence. Seeing Fagin and his gang of tricksters and scoundrels lie in wait in the surrounding woodland, living a life of adventure, also seems like their natural home.

Fagin(Russell Richardson) gives pickpocketing tips to Oliver(Jerome Thompson)
Fagin (Russell Richardson) gives pickpocketing tips to Oliver (Jerome Thompson)

The detailed costumes, lighting, music and effects along with the backdrop of the folly, woods and lake, create an enchanting Dickensian world which envelopes the audience. This continues as you are guided between scenes to the accompaniment of instrumentals. Just keep an eye out for pick-pockets and keep your picnics safe as Fagin’s gang lurk in the forest looking for easy pickings!

The jail scene with Oliver (Jerome Thompson)
The jail scene with Oliver (Jerome Thompson)

This year’s production of Oliver Twist has been adapted by established theatre, television and radio writer Debbie Oates who has written for Coronation Street since 2002 and whose other credits include The Mill and Primeval.

Josie Cerise as Dodger
Josie Cerise as Dodger

The cast all give great performances, many as multiple characters who bring out a range of emotions from the audience which makes it impossible for me to come away naming just one favourite! Victoria Braizier does a fantastic job of slipping between three key characters throughout the story, each with very individual personalities (Nancy/Noah Claypole/Mr Fang). Also, a big shout out to the members of the local group The Dukes Young Company who play Fagin’s Gang.

Congratulations to all the cast and crew! This is a fabulous event that all the family can enjoy! It runs until 15th August 2015, so plenty of time to get your tickets.

Oliver (Jerome Thompson) and Mr Fang (Victoria Brazier)
Oliver (Jerome Thompson) and Mr Fang (Victoria Brazier)

For the more organised amongst us, make a day of it, and enjoy a picnic in the beautiful Williamson Park and if you are looking to extend your time in Lancaster, stay at the 4 star Lancaster House hotel – just a short drive away from the park.

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