Review: Swaffham Players put on a colourful and vibrant Oliver!

A near-sellout Friday-night audience enjoyed a colourful and confident production of Lionel Bart's evergreen Dickensian musical Oliver!, performed by the Swaffham Players.

Joshua Dawkins was suitably melancholy and quiet as the orphan around whom a cast of familiar, larger-than-life characters swirl.

Director John Hooker created a charismatic Fagin and Stuart Travis had the stage presence to convey the right level of menace as Sykes, while Freya Brunton won the night's singing plaudits with her emotional performance as an abused woman torn by her love of her tormentor.

The production made good use of its two-tier set, never more so than with the Sykes' sinister first entrance on the upper level. With the dark London skyline looming behind him, his mere presence immediately and believably silenced the hilarity in the pub below.

Although problems with the sound left some spoken scenes difficult to follow, the cast put across a string of the audience's favourite musical numbers, including Food, Glorious Food, You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two and Consider Yourself One of the Family, with some verve.

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The orchestra, led by musical director Richard Winch, served the cast very well.

The show is one of the most ambitious recent efforts by the Players, now in their 42nd year, and succeeded in filling the large hall at Swaffham Hamond's High School.

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The two last performances will take place on Saturday April 14, with a matinee at 3pm followed by an evening show at 7.30pm. Tickets cost �8, or �7 for concessions.

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