Running time approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
This faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ book gives a grim picture of the life of the poor in London. Orphaned children are condemned to live in the Workhouse until they can be sold into apprenticeship. Oliver runs away to London and falls in with a gang of child pickpockets, run by the master criminal, Fagin. On his first outing, with Fagin’s best pickpocket – The Artful Dodger , Oliver gets caught by a kindly old gentleman, who takes him home. Fagin’s associate, Bill Sykes, a house breaker and thug, kidnaps the boy, to stop him from talking. More dangerous and deadly deeds follow before Oliver is saved from a life of poverty and crime.
35 SPEAKING PARTS. Could be less with doubling or more if crowd scenes were larger.
PLEASE NOTE: there are NO songs in this play and we do not recommend adding them in.
As with all our plays, there are full production notes that give advice on scenery, costumes and props.
NO ROYALTIES, PHOTOCOPYING LICENCE INCLUDED.
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(Closed curtains if possible. Narrators dressed as elegant ladies – they can appear in crowd scenes later)
Today/tonight we’re going to tell you the story of Oliver Twist, possibly the most well known of Charles Dickens’ stories.
Charles Dickens started writing his book round about the time that Queen Victoria came to the throne.
Life in Victorian times was either pretty good – if you were rich, and not so good if you were poor.
Poor people who had nowhere else to live were often directed to the local workhouse.
(Miming sequence during commentary by Narrators: In silence, enter poor family, mother, father and three children. They shuffle along, very unsure of themselves. They stand, huddled together until MR BUMBLE enters and forcibly directs father one way, mother another. Children cling and have to be roughly separated from their parents who are demonstrably upset.)
In the workhouse, families were quickly and often roughly separated, men in one wing of the building…
Women in another…
And children were kept apart and if they were lucky might see their mum or dad on a Sunday.
And that was only if everyone had been good for the whole week, which was almost impossible.
Workhouses were for the lowest levels of society, and they were mean, often uncaring establishments.
Their whole purpose was to provide temporary accommodation, which was presented in the most unattractive way possible.
The idea was that everyone hated being there, so they tried hard to move out when their circumstances improved.
If it was too comfortable, why would anyone want to leave? So they made it horrible!
It was into the workhouse that our hero, Oliver Twist, was born. A very upsetting situation all round.
In the workhouse, Mr Bumble was the Beadle, a sort of manager or superintendent. He was only a minor church official, but my, was he a very self important man!
Mrs Corney was the matron of the workhouse, a most unpleasant woman by all accounts.
You saw Mr Bumble, the Beadle briefly, and now you will meet him properly and Mrs Corney too.
So here we are in the workhouse. It is late into the evening, and all is quiet. The poor people are asleep in their respective dormitories.
Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney have been entertaining guests.
Mr Sowerberry, the local undertaker, and his charming wife.
(The NARRATORS exit. Lights up and curtains open to reveal four people seated around a dining table – MR BUMBLE, MRS CORNEY, MR and MRS SOWERBERRY)
MR BUMBLE (Stands)
This has been such a delightful evening! So nice of you to call round Mr Sowerberry, and to bring your charming and delightful wife.
(MRS SOWERBERRY smiles in an embarrassed way)
MR SOWERBERRY (Stands and shakes MR BUMBLE’S hand)
We’ve had a lovely time, and thank you Mrs Corney for the meal.
An absolute pleasure!
MRS SOWERBERRY (Stands)
…And the wine too! Not only have we eaten well, but we have drunk, now what’s the word…. sumptuously, that’s it…. sumptuously.
Very kind of you to say. This might be the Workhouse, and we may not have much, but we know how to entertain our friends.
And in our business, though it is sad to say, but having the local undertaker as a friend is sometimes both useful and necessary.
We understand perfectly. When our paths cross, as they occasionally must, it’s not always the best of times, but tonight has been different.
You have been excellent in your roles as host and hostess. But now Mr Sowerberry and I must take our leave.