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.
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.