by Liz Streatfeild-James, Upper Sixth
The joint school production of Oliver performance week was the 19th to the 22nd of January, it is the first time that the Upper School has joined together with the Preparatory School to do a production together, and it was just brilliant.
As an audience we took our seats with anticipation and excitement as the lights in the auditorium began to dim at 7.30pm. Almost immediately streams and streams of tiny children began to pace down the aisles of the auditorium towards the stage. The first well-known song of “Food glorious food” featured all of the children in the Preparatory School filling the stage with not only their bodies but also an enormous noise, creating a spectacular opening number and some adorable solos from a few tiny children dotted around the stage. The show quickly settled in and we were given the treat of the wonderful set that presumably Mrs Pickles (Director) and Sam Hollis-Pack (the Set Designer) had created together months ago. The stage was mostly empty with 4 large crate-like boxes set on it, the front of these came down to reveal a new room each time and above them was Fagan’s house with ladders either side and a pole which everyone used to get back down to the stage. This was visually very exciting and helped our understanding (if help was needed for anyone who didn’t know the tale off by heart) of the story.
The production was ably led by the lead roles taken predominantly by the pupils in the Upper School Block 2, and a few from the Sixth Form and of course Oliver, who was played by Nicholas Przemioslo and Oliver Hills on different nights.
Jonty O’Callaghan (L6th) played Fagan and if you had seen him as Amos in the November production of Chicago you would never have recognised him as the same person. He was absolutely wonderful, never once losing character, even down to the movements of his fingers and his posture. He was completely believable and wonderful and I am sure he will go on to take some even more impressive roles in the future Clifton productions. Emma Johnsey-Smith (5th form) played Nancy. She captivated us all when she sang, “As long as he needs me”, which was just wonderful, with excellent crescendos and some truly amazing power behind the top notes. As an audience we really felt for her courage and her death was an emotional moment for us all. William Lamb (U6th) took the role of Bill Sykes in his stride. He portrayed the violence and danger that Bill Sykes possesses perfectly making us, as an audience, fear him and his song was dark and perfectly matched to his character.
The whole chorus was wonderful and not one ever looked out of place or stood out to me as unsure of what was going on. However a few of the smaller roles stood out. Angus Clark (3rd form) took the role of the Artful Dodger completely in his stride. He had the ‘cheek’ but also the care required to play this character. Despite being a new actor on the Clifton College production scene, no nerves were visible and his songs were a joy to listen to. Sasha Hornak (4th form), who played Widow Corney at the beginning with Mr Bumble - played by Jem Crawley- was just wonderful. She played angry flirtation effectively and the song “I shall scream” was amusing but captivating to watch. She kept the sassiness of the character perfectly throughout. Mr Bumble was quick to pick up the comedy moments and this accentuated his character for us all. He was a great character with a strong vocal range. Finally Elektra Banks (4th form) who played Bet - Nancy’s friend - was also very good. She helped show the kindness that the two girls have, but also helped Nancy when she was feeling weak. It was a great performance from her with some lovely solos. The enormous range of leading roles available meant that nearly everyone had a moment in the spotlight, which was wonderful to see.
The make-up was truly amazing, making the pupils completely unrecognisable under the wild hair, scars, and beards. Beside the tiny children from the Preparatory School the Block 2 pupils aged from 13-16 looked like enormous adults and they blended together perfectly. It was a wonderful performance from everyone. If there is another joint school production in the future it will have a hard time bettering this performance.
Congratulations to the cast and everyone involved!