by Daniel Hill
Avant Garde Dance present a fresh retelling of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Fagin’s Twist gives us a rich backstory of Fagin and his journey to the streets of London. Paired alongside Bill Sykes the two young men rise to their true status which we are aware of from the novel. Having no particular desire to see productions that are dance based, I was positively surprised at the introduction of libretto and the high standard of dance which was showcased.
The dance itself was a mix between many styles, most prominently contemporary and hip-hop. The actors performed with conviction and the use of speech throughout often meant that the audience were able to follow the plot when the dance was occasion ambiguous. The use of certain motifs that returned gave the piece an exciting edge over other performances I have seen and therefore made it a very enjoyable evening. The dance was often complemented by the use of props such as handkerchiefs and top hats. These made the choreography slightly challenging at moments and other than a few mishaps, which were dealt with professionally, they added an extra element to the production which meant every audience member were left wanting more.
The choreography itself was very impressive and original in many places. Tony Adigun retold The story of Oliver Twist in a refreshing and thought-provoking way which could speak to any age in the audience. Personally, I believe that it was Joshua James-Smith who played Fagin who was the strongest and most eye catching dancer. Moments that were particularly memorable were when he had a solo sequence which was performed under a single light which hung only one metre or so from the floor which gave him a confined space. This moment particularly amazed me to say the least.
The design of set and lighting was also very powerful and complimented the dance very well. The set was three separate pieces of wood which stood vertically and could be moved around to make a larger set piece which sloped from one side to another. With contraptions that could open as doors or windows, this was utilised effectively. The other side was often used to hang hammocks and create the walls of an inside space such as Fagin’s lair. The lighting was also very commendable. With moments when the only light was a single lantern to when the back wall of the stage was flooded with light and shadows were created on the back wall to add power to the piece.
Overall I thought this was a great piece of dance and worth the watch. All members of the cast and creative team deserve congratulations for bringing this untold version of a familiar story to the stage.