We chat to Liz Ilett - our Director for Oliver!

“I want audiences to laugh, I want audiences to cry, I want them to believe in the story.”

That’s Liz Ilett’s aim in bringing Oliver! to the Haymarket stage for BATS. Directing the show has been a long-held ambition for Liz, who’s been involved with the Society for more than 30 years. So what’s special about this particular show?

“It’s a musical that has soul and a ‘real’ story. It’s not ‘pretty pretty’, it’s quite grim at times. It’s very much an actor’s musical, and we’re trying to delve deep into the characters and bring out the drama of Oliver’s situation.”

Those characters include iconic roles like Fagin (played by David Izzo), who leads a gang of boy pickpockets, the caring Nancy (played by Kirsty Kingham) and the terrifying Bill Sikes (played by Ali Bagshaw).

Several weeks into rehearsals Liz says she’s “very pleased” with how it’s all going.

Liz performing in  Sister Act, May 2015 , as Sister Mary Lazarus

Liz performing in Sister Act, May 2015, as Sister Mary Lazarus

“It’s a really strong line up of principal characters. The boys playing Oliver and the Artful Dodger are superb. We have two teams of children playing the boys and girls in the workhouse and Fagin’s gang, and some have never been on stage before. The youngest is just eight years old. Repetition is really important to help them learn their scenes and songs.”

Memorable moments in the show include Oliver asking for more gruel, the sinister relationship between Nancy and Bill Sikes, and of course uplifting musical numbers like Consider Yourself, Who Will Buy, It’s A Fine Life and Oom-Pa-Pa.

Liz hopes youngsters seeing Oliver! for the first time this May, will be as gripped by it as she was when she first saw the film as a child.

“Oliver! caught my imagination then – and it never let go.”

Oliver! runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

Consider Yourself... the Artful Dodger! Meet Ashton and Ben

With his lopsided hat, cheeky grin and streetwise attitude, the Artful Dodger is a great role for a young performer. He’s top dog of a gang of child criminals in Victorian London, who gets to lead big musical numbers like Consider Yourself and share dramatic scenes with characters like Fagin, Nancy and Bill Sykes.

So it’s no wonder the two boys who share the part in BATS’ production of Oliver! are determined to make the most of it.

Ashton Batchelor

Ashton Batchelor

“Fagin’s gang is like a family”, says 10-year-old Ashton Batchelor, ”and Dodger is in charge all the time, he’s always on the move, so I’ve got to use the whole stage. I’m practising every spare second!”

Ashton attends two dance schools and has appeared in shows like Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and BATS’ production of Singin’ in the Rain last year.

“It just inspires me being on stage. Seeing the audience happy makes me feel good.”

This will be the second occasion 12-year-old Ben Hastings has appeared in a production of Oliver! at the Haymarket. But he didn’t play Dodger last time.

Ben Hastings

Ben Hastings

“No, I was Oliver then!” says Ben. “But now it’s really fun to be a completely different character. It’s a challenge to play Dodger, who’s always being jolly and making the most of his opportunities.”

Ben’s other previous shows include Joseph and Gavroche in Les Miserables with BATS Next Gen and playing the role of Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert with BATS last year. He is full of praise for the Society.

“I’m enjoying working with really talented people,” he says of the cast of Oliver! which features 60 local performers, including 30 boys and girls. “It’s going to be a really amazing show!”

Ben and Ashton will each appear in 6 of the 12 performances of Oliver!, which runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

Meet our two Olivers!

It’s one of the most put-upon roles in musical theatre. Within 10 minutes of appearing on stage, poor Oliver Twist has been denied food, chased, beaten and sold to a nasty undertaker. That’s before he even encounters gangmaster Fagin and the evil Bill Sykes.

Ollie Webb (L) and Edward Walton (R) practice asking for more chips at Oliver’s Chip Shop in Old Basing

Ollie Webb (L) and Edward Walton (R) practice asking for more chips at Oliver’s Chip Shop in Old Basing

Pretending to suffer those tribulations is a challenge for the two young actors sharing the part of Oliver across 12 performances, Edward Walton and Ollie Webb.

“A lot of the adults are playing some really horrible characters,” says 9-year-old Edward Walton. “But in real life they’re lovely, and I enjoy watching their performances, so I’ve got to remember not to smile when I’m meant to look terrified!”

Edward dressed up as Oliver for World Book Day at school last year, but hadn’t seen the musical before auditioning for the show. He’s enjoying the singing and acting, “but I find dancing the hardest. In the song Consider Yourself there are so many moves to remember!”

Edward’s previous stage experience includes playing Michael Darling in Peter Pan at the Anvil, Benji in BATS’ production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert last year, and various shows with Theatre 4 Kids, which is run by his mum Julia.

For Ollie Webb, who’s 11, the role of Oliver is his stage debut. He didn’t think he stood much chance of getting the part, but was told auditioning was “worth a go”. And now? “I really like telling the story, the journey Oliver goes on and who he meets. I’m learning to be focussed, and doing new stuff I’ve never experienced before.”

Ollie shares scenes with his mum Theresa who plays Widow Corney, the heartless mistress of the workhouse. “It’s fun! I know when she’s being horrible to me it’s only acting!”

With beautiful songs to perform, like Where Is Love and Who Will Buy, both Edward and Ollie are sure to tug at the heartstrings of audiences in this musical family favourite.

Oliver! runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

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Oliver! - Dates and information for pre-audition rehearsals and auditions

If you wish to audition for an adult role or your child wishes to audition for Oliver!, here is the information about the pre-audition rehearsals and auditions.

If you are aged 16 and over read about the audition process to join BATS.

Pre-audition rehearsals

You do not need to attend every pre-audition rehearsal. Note that the movement audition for adults will be taught on 7 Jan session.

  • Wed 2 January 2019: 7pm - 8pm - Olivers and Dodgers

  • Wed 2 January 2019: 8pm - 9.30pm - Adults

  • Mon 7 January 2019: 7.30pm - 10pm - Adults (movement audition will be taught)

  • Wed 9 January 2019: 7pm - 8pm - Olivers and Dodgers

  • Wed 9 January 2019: 8pm - 9.30pm - Adults

Venue: Christ Church, Reading Road, Chineham, RG4 8LT

CHILDREN, OLIVERS AND DODGERS WORKSHOP AND auditions

Date: Sunday 13 January
Time: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Venue: Market Chambers, 6 Wote Street, Basingstoke, RG21 7NW (Note - access to the main entrance is via the Lesser Market alleyway. The door is directly opposite Camouflage Corner)
Cost: £5 (payable on the day). This covers attendance at the day-long workshop/audition and membership, if cast in the show

Ages to audition

  • Boys auditioning for Oliver should be aged between 9-13 years old. They should not be too tall.

  • Boys auditioning for Dodger should have a playing age of 10 – 15 years. They should not be too tall, but if they are older and short that will be fine.

  • Children auditioning for the Workhouse/Fagin’s gang need to be aged between 9-12 years old to audition. In addition, we are seeking to cast a couple of children aged 8.

Adult auditions

Date: Monday 14 January
Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Venue: Christ Church, Reading Road, Chineham, RG4 8LT

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