Oliver Twist comes to Leeds Playhouse

Leeds Playhouse will present a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Oliver Twist, in 2020.

For those that don’t know the novel, the play focusses on the orphaned Oliver Twist. Born and raised in a life of poverty and misfortune, he travels to London on a life-changing adventure. There he meets a handful of intriguing characters including the Artful Dodger, Bill Sykes and Nancy after joining Fagin’s infamous gang.

Award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery has adapted the piece. She’s a fantastic playwright and wonderful creative. She’s received support from Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey. The piece will be directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that Bryony Lavery and Amy Leach are an absolute dream team for me – local, influential women with a huge amount of talent.

The production opens at Leeds Playhouse, before visiting other venues that are part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium alongside Graeae. Ramps on the Moon is dedicated to putting D/deaf and disabled artists at the centre of their work. Each year one of the organisations produces a new large-scale show that champions diversity both on and off stage. Previous productions include The Who’s Tommy, which received fantastic results.

Director Amy Leach said “Having watched all of the previous Ramps on the Moon shows, I was excited to think about stories that felt highly theatrical and sensory – that would lend themselves to thrilling and bold, visual and aural storytelling. Oliver Twist is a vivid, dark and visceral story and I am so excited to explore how adding artistic layers of creative sign language, audio description and captioning can enhance the story-telling for all audience members. Oliver Twist will give an integrated ensemble cast of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled actors the opportunity to play a brilliantly varied range of characters and showcase a wide range of talents. I can’t wait to share Bryony’s very special adaptation with audiences around the country.”

Adapter Bryony Lavery said “I’ve cleared my desk and I’m just about to bury myself in the country with the book of Oliver Twist, a fist full of wonderful old photographs of workhouses, and a notebook stuffed with all the brilliant ideas gleaned from the first Ramps on the Moon workshop. Led by Amy, attended by the theatre legend that is Jenny Sealey and a group of amazingly bendy, articulate, generous actors, the workshop has set me upon the road to rediscovering the text for this exciting, and daunting, writing task. I’m totally thrilled to be working with Leeds Playhouse and Ramps on the Moon on this unique project.”

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said “After having been part of Ramps on the Moon since the very start and having received some great shows over the previous three years, we’re excited to be taking the lead this time. The production will build on some brilliant work which Amy Leach has been developing at the Playhouse and also brings Bryony Lavery back to Leeds to create another new Dickens adaptation. The prospect of these two terrific artists, working with a fully integrated company and with embedded interpretation, will make a Leeds Playhouse / Ramps on the Moon Oliver Twist very enticing indeed.”

Every performance of Oliver Twist will feature integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Again, anyone who reads this blog knows how accessibility in the theatre is of great importance to me, and to see such an influential theatre such as Leeds Playhouse take a lead on this is fantastic.

The production plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry theatre from 28 February – 21 March 2020 ahead of a UK tour.

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