Unexpected Twist

“An innovative and exciting retelling of a classic Dickens story”.

The Children’s Theatre Partnership and Royal & Derngate, Northampton’s production of Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist is a fresh look at a centuries old story, which is brought right up to date with a beatbox soundtrack and an amazing cast.

Visiting a brand-new show is always exciting and not knowing what to expect is also a welcome prospect.  We obviously all know the story of Oliver Twist, however when it’s catapulted into the modern day, it shows that some things are still pretty similar.  Drew Hylton as Shona/Oliver is a shining star, with a beautiful vocal performance and stellar acting ability throughout.  She is a newcomer at school coming from a single parent family after loosing her Mum.  She joins the class of stereotypical adolescents who muck about in class, back chat the teacher and generally don’t try too hard.  The teacher, Miss Cavani (Rosie Hall) is trying to change the kids lives through literature and introducing them to the world of Oliver Twist, however there are many parallels that Shona finds herself inside the story.

The show starts with the explanation that everything we hear on and off the stage is bought to life by purely the voice.  Alex Hardie (Gazz/Charlie Bates) provides some incredible beatboxing, an art form that uses the voice to mimic percussion and other sound effects. From this point on, it was quite incredible to listen to the many different sounds and effects, all performed without any musical instruments at all.  Vocally very demanding. 

The cast of 10 all played at least 2 roles each, some more, in modern day and then in period costume as the famous characters from the Dickens story, including Dodger, Nancy, Fagin and Bill Sykes.  Each and every performer provided so much energy throughout the show and special mention must go to Nadine Rose Johnson (Rosie/Dodger), Liyah Summers (Rasheda/Dodger/Nancy) and Kate Donnachie (Desree/Dodger/Voice Captain) who provide many of the backing vocals, all to perfection.

There are many songs scattered throughout the show written by Conrad Murray and Yaya Bey, some in a rap style, some sung through, but all adding to the overall story. Again, the theme is so true of today and the troubles teenagers can find themselves in, with the many difficult decisions they have to make in order to fit in and what those decisions can lead to. Writer, Michael Rosen has captured this so well.  There were many children in the audience, and I feel this show is a great way to explain how life can be good, but there can be many obstacles in your way.  There are many life lessons shared in this show executed in a way that is so relatable to children.

Unexpected Twist is an exciting piece of theatre that is high energy and full of incredible performers.  We were also treated to an improvised piece of music by the full cast at the very end of the show with Kate Donnachie at the helm conducting in the most exuberate manner which made for a great end to a great night.

This show was reviewed on the 16th May 2023.  Unexpected Twist runs at the Wolverhampton Grand until the 20th May 2023. Tickets available here: UNEXPECTED TWIST | Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Full tour details for this show can be found here: Unexpected Twist (unexpectedtwistonstage.co.uk)

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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