‘Oliver’ – At Abbey Field

Hi everyone, and I’m finally back with another theatre review! The theatre season has finally started back up again. So I’m very excited to see what I get the chance to see this year! But this year it is slightly different…

This year The Mercury Theatre in Colchester is under some renovations, so for the next six months or so, they will be performing under a tent theatre at Abbey Field. This has been a first for me to see a theatre show outside. So I do have somethings to say about that, but first let’s talk about the show ‘Oliver’ adapted for Charles Dickens’s novel by Lionel Bart, as was performed by The Colchester Operatic Society.

I have review one of these shows before a few years ago called ‘Jekyll and Hyde – The Musical’ and I personally went to see last year’s performance of ‘Annie’. On both occasions, the shows have been both of a really good standard, so I was expecting the same here.

I first need to say, that it was very clear from the start that it was very clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves from start to finish. Oliver played by Archie Ball seemed a tad nervous to begin with but as the show went on he grew more and more in confidence, and having heard this was his first show with The COS and to play such an iconic role for your first show is such an achievement! The acting was excellent and it was obvious he spent a long time learning the lines! Well Done!

Nancy played by Leanne Field was outstanding from the moment she entered the stage, she had the old victorian London accent down to a tee. She even managed to keep it up whilst singing the songs which was to me very impressive! On the topic of her singing, what can I say, it was nothing more than excellent and extraordinary! She really stood out, and to play such a well known and iconic role as Nancy, amazing! Playing Nancy is one of the hardest roles in theatre so Leanne defiantly has done that role justice!

All the cast were excellent! If I sat here and mentioned everyone, me and you would be here all here. They were all just amazing!

On to the show itself, there were times in the show were for me the lights were very bright. So I struggled to see certain parts of the show, but I don’t think they were any major plot points so I don’t think you will miss out on anything, just something to remember if you are light sensitive.

There were some parts for the show where some of the characters were in the heart of London surrounded by various stalls and markets. On a couple of occasions, an actress came out in a wheelchair, playing various roles, from a newspaper saleswoman or just a stand-in as an extra. I thought this was an excellent example of inclusiveness and involvement which for me was lovely to see! More theatre companies and shows should take note of this and do this even more than they do!

Wayne Setford playing Bill Sikes played the role very well. The character of Bill Sikes is known for being the best robber and pick-pocketer in London and therefore is very feared even by Fagan himself. For me, I didn’t get the sense he was as feared as he should have been for an audience perspective. Sure the characters feared him as they should. But for me personally, the fear didn’t really come across to the audience. But like I said he played the role very well and was a good performance. It also would have been nice to see his dog Bullseye, but I can sort of see why they didn’t have him in this version.

Onto the venue itself, like I said at the beginning this is the first time I have watched a full theatre show in an outside tent, so before heading to the show I was interested to see how they would pull it off from a Visually Impaired point of view, and I have to see I was quite impressed! Throughout the tenure, it was very well lit. As you enter the venue you get to walk on a plastic walkway which was nice to see so then you didn’t have to walk on uneven ground which is good for cane users, as I know for personal experience, walking on grass with a cane is not easy! Once you walk into the venue you get to walk on carpet. Some of the areas of the carpeted areas were a little uneven especially walking to our seats, and some of that area some of the carpet was a little high and lose so could be very easy to trip if you have limited vision, so might be something they will change in the future.

As we were walking to our seats, these areas are quite dark, so they put small white fairy lights on the floor and on the ceiling. So was a little easier, again this was a little bright at first, so maybe look straight at them like I did a couple of times! But was a really nice touch as was very well thought out! As the tent was in a field it would be very easy to take your Guide Dog for a toilet should you need to.

When we came to sitting down, we were sitting on the end of a row, so was very easy for us, there was limited legroom, so if you are sitting more into the middle of the row, and you come across who are already sitting down and you try yo get past, you might find it little difficult even if they stand, so if your booking I’d try and get an end seat, it also has the added benefit as during the show some of the cast come out into the audience so then you will get to see some of them up close.

We were sitting in Row D so we were very close to the stage which was excellent as the stage was very close to the front row so I could see everything very clearly which was great, even though I did have a tall person in front of me!

Overall the venue is very good, and I had no major problems if you did have any problems the staff are very helpful and will try to help you as best they can, so if in doubt just ask!

Low Vision Guests – I think you have no problem with the show, I would recommend sitting a couple of rows back from the front as you maybe need to crank your neck in a few places to see what is going out as some of the show are on high platforms.

No Vision Guests – I think Audio Description would be good here, a lot of the story is dialogue and songs so if you can’t seem to get an AD performance I don’t think it will be a huge problem, just maybe a friend with you, just in case there are any bits of the show you struggle with. 

In conclusion then overall it was a great show and a great venue! I would defiantly recommend if you fancy a good night out! It was really fun which some brilliant comical moments and a very well-told story!

‘Oliver’ is running at The Mercury – Abbey Field’ from the 27th of September until the 12th of October 2019. If you fancy tickets you can find them by clicking HERE which will take you to The Mercury Theatre website!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic!

Rehearsal video/Trailer: