is that time of year again when local theatre is in full flow, and amazing
talent seems in evidence at every performance.
Tiverton's Willow Tree Theatre Company is no exception, and is busy
rehearsing and preparing for their seasonal production of the well-known and
popular musical Oliver.
Although preparations for the production first started in
September; the weeks are galloping on and it will not be long before the
show is due on stage for its first public performance on Monday.
Directed by Jon Sowden, with the able assistance of musical director Hilary
Wickham, the players are following a tight schedule.
Members had to audition for all the parts, and particularly in the case
of young Oliver, competition was stiff.
Ten year-old Dominic Jones has only ever acted in school plays before,
although he has taken part in Willow Tree's end-of-term shows in the past,
where he has participated in singing or dancing roles. "When I
auditioned, my mother helped me to learn the words," he said. He was
up against seven other young people for the part, and had to undertake three
different auditions before finally being awarded the chance to play the
The young actor told me: "I am thrilled." Neither of his
parents has been able to attend any rehearsals, which, for Dominic, is to
the good. "I can't wait for them to see the show," he said.
Denise James, who has to
find suitable outfits for 50 members of cast, ranging from eight year olds
upwards, creates all the costumes. In Victorian times - which is when
the story is set - there was no difference, except in size, between the
clothes worn by children and adults. Jackets, waistcoats, hats, caps,
bonnets, boots, shawls, scarves, petticoats, skirts, and corsets; they have
all got to be sourced or made.
Then, of course, there are whiskers, beards and moustaches, ringlets and
curls - not an easy task.
Produced by Steve Gage - who also plays the nasty character Bill Sykes -
the show is to be staged at Tiverton's New Hall and runs for approximately
two and a half hours.
The part of the Artful Dodger is to be played by 12-year-old Connor Van
Bussel, a young performer who has a naturally cheerful and cheeky demeanour,
making him perfect as the innocent Oliver's mentor in the pickpocket gang.
Keith Thomas is Fagin to a T, as he teaches young Oliver how to "pick a
pocket or two", and holds the stage in each of his scenes.
The cast is vibrant and, although there is still some fine-tuning to be
done, there is no doubt this will be another successful production.
Article by Penny Smale (Youth