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.
“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.
“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.