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Review | Unexpected Twist | The Lowry | 06/05/2023

Unexpected Twist is presented as a new take on the literary and stage staple, Oliver Twist. It first found life as novel itself, in Michael Rosen’s book of the same name. It has now been adapted for the the stage by Roy Williams, where I caught it at The Lowry.

This is not simply a modern restaging of Oliver Twist, it is absolutely its own unique creation. We meet young teen Shona (Drew Hylton) who finds herself at a new school. Her classmates are shocked that she, unlike the rest of them, doesn’t own a mobile phone. It quickly transpires that her mum has died and her dad (Thomas Vernal) lost his job, and now they have the debt collectors constantly on their backs.

Frankie Bradshaw’s stage design works well, with school lockers laddering up each side of the stage. This is juxtaposed with old-fashioned Victorian street lights, merging the worlds together. The mostly static set is used to full effect by the cast at all levels, making it remain interesting throughout.

Parallels are drawn between modern child poverty, and that of the classic Dickens tale. The balance of dark however outweigh the light throughout. It would have benefited from more fun, as the original story always managed to do so well. Although this is aimed at a younger audience, the points are often hammered home a bit too much and as such impact is lost at points.

What makes this show is its energetic cast. Every sound heard coming out of the speakers came from the exceptionally talented cast; from rapping, to beatboxing to more traditional musical instrument sounds. 18-year-old Drew Hylton confidently lead the cast impeccably, with truly exceptional vocals. This is definitely a name to watch in years to come, Hamilton I’m looking at you! The music itself could have been a little more varied and less repetitive, but with the awe-inspiring talent of the cast, it didn’t always matter.

Unexpected Twist proved to be an enjoyable night at the theatre, with the younger crowd lapping it up. With some further development this could be something special. Unexpected Twist continues its UK tour into June, see below for more information:

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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