Written By: Andrea Young
Date: November 12 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
“I’ll look at the film in a whole new light!” exclaimed one of the audience members on his way out of Tony Adigun’s Fagin’s Twist.
Avant Garde Dance Company and The Place’s retelling of the Dickens story is a refreshing take on a classic. It gives us Fagin and Bill Sykes’ backstory, taking us from their youth in a workhouse to their ultimate demise. While never painting the two as angels, it uses the material to ask some challenging and overlooked questions of the original book. It raises questions about nature versus nurture, the deserving and undeserving poor, and who really is to blame for poverty and crime.
It bubbles with energy from the start. Its electrifying opening sequence, which shows off the talents of the full company, immediately asks questions about identity and how we become who we are. The mesmerising Fagin (Arran Green) describes himself as being raised in ‘dirt and hope’; words that are built on by this show’s physical exploration of ambition and roads not travelled – or rather roads that are blocked off to lots of people.
Stefano A. Addae gives a commanding performance as Bill Sykes. His solo routine encapsulates the rage and inner anger of this character, but also adds new facets to his personality. His duets with Ellis Saul, who gives an outstanding performance as Nancy, are breathtaking, as we see their relationship move from initial attraction to fear, jealousy and anger.
Sia Gbamoi’s development of the character of Oliver is extremely accomplished as the timid child that comes into his own. Despite the high energy of the whole show, every move is impeccable. The dance is so precise, and at a speed so fast that it feels like you are watching a film on fast forward.
Dodger’s (Aaron Nuttall) narration at key points gives the show a good pace and highlights the differences between the original and this new retelling. His performance also adds new elements to the Dodger you think you know.
The staging is dynamic and evocative of Victorian England, but edgy and with a strong influence from street dance – it wouldn’t look out of place in a music video. The dancers glide across the moving staging with ease, and it’s hard not to marvel at their athleticism and dexterity. Every movement looks like it is performed effortlessly. The cast works hard; in turns dancing across, over and under the set, and moving it themselves, emphasising the theme of hard labour throughout the whole show.
The end of the performance echoes its start, but with an intriguing twist for fans of the original – and ultimately leaving the audience asking for more.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding