Interview

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) ask for more chips at Oliver’s Chip Shop in Old Basing

Ollie Webb (L) and Edward Walton (R) ask 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.

Ian Moseley chats about preparing to play a transgender role in Priscilla

“She’s a wonderful character to play. She’s been through a lot and her hardness on the outside masks her real vulnerability. She’s also got some brilliantly bitchy lines!”

Ian Moseley

Ian Moseley is rehearsing in heels and a skirt for his role as Bernadette in the production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Bernadette is one of the first transgender characters to appear in a musical and Ian is determined to get his portrayal right.

“Priscilla is one of my favourite shows with its themes of tolerance and acceptance, along with all the fantastic disco songs and spectacular costumes.”

Ian Moseley as Bernadette

In the show, Bernadette joins fellow performers Tick and Adam on a battered old bus (nicknamed Priscilla) across the Australian outback to perform a show in Alice Springs. Ian says the dynamic between the three is crucial.

“You’ve got the young guy, Adam, whose cockiness and ease with himself hangs off the coattails of the fight for acceptance Bernadette has gone through. It annoys her and their sparring is very funny. She’s much closer to Tick, who’s struggling with telling his son he’s gay.”

Ian and fellow actors Bryn Hughes (Tick) and Doug Cairns (Adam) recently appeared in Festival Place and the Malls in full drag make-up and fabulously over-the-top outfits to promote the show.

“We certainly turned heads! Lots of people wanted a photo with us.”

Ian hopes everyone will open their mind to enjoy this hilarious, heartwarming show when it comes to the Haymarket from Wed 14 – Sat 17 and Wed 21 – Sat 24 November. Performances at 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm on 17 and 24 Nov.

All tickets for the opening night are £18.50. For the other performances: £23.50 (adults) £15 (16s and under) - with concessions for students, over-65s and groups. All prices include a booking fee. Buy tickets online.

Dance captain James Young puts the Priscilla cast through their paces

I Will Survive, Don’t Leave Me This Way, It’s Raining Men...all classic disco songs that feature in the hilarious, heartwarming musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Making sure every dance step, arm flick and hip thrust is right on the button is the responsibility of James Young, who is dance captain for the production.

“The cast are doing a great job,” says James. “They’ve picked up the routines really well. Now I’m being extra picky to make sure they look amazing!”

Headshot of James Young

Headshot of James Young

James is very passionate about Priscilla, Queen of Desert, the story of a Sydney-based performing trio who drive a ramshackle bus across the Australian outback to Alice Springs, finding love, hostility and a few surprises along the way.

“Yes, the show is fun, colourful and a great night out, but it’s also a story of friendship, acceptance and getting through tough times.”

James has been dancing since he was seven, starting with tap and moving onto modern, jazz and ballet. He got his BTEC National Diploma in Performing Acts at Queen Mary’s College and now works with young children as a room leader in a preschool.

As well as dance captain, James is also dancing in the show. He says Priscilla is a great release from a stressful job. “Yes - and what I’m most looking forward is the band call, when all the musicians come together for the first time. You’ve been working in rehearsal for so long with just a keyboard, you can forget just how amazing these songs are! It takes the show to another level, then once you add the amazing costumes, this show is just going to be spectacular!”

Priscilla runs at the Haymarket, Basingstoke from Wed 14 – Sat 17 and Wed 21 – Sat 24 November. Performances at 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm on 17 and 24 Nov.

All tickets for the opening night are £18.50. For the other performances: £23.50 (adults) £15 (16s and under) - with concessions for students, over-65s and groups. All prices include a booking fee. Buy tickets online.

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