Initially the description of Fagin’s Twist suggests that the audience will learn more about Fagin’s background and how he became the man in Dickens’ novel. However, this is instead a complete retelling of the story where the villains become less villainous and the heroes are knocked off their pedestals. The four main characters, Fagin, Nancy, Bill Sykes and the Artful Dodger are all recognisable but their roles are completely re-imagined in this new dance show from Avant Garde Dance.
The first half follows idealistic Fagin and Bill Sykes’ escape from the workhouse into their new business venture of pick pocketing while the second half picks up with the more familiar setting of Fagin, Bill, Nancy and the boys. Although as Dodger says, the true story is completely different to the one we know from Oliver Twist.
For anyone who finds the narrative in dance shows a bit hard to follow, Fagin’s Twist is a good starting point. Spoken word, poetry and prose are all used as a backdrop to the dances and this makes the story a lot easier to follow. At times the music is too loud and the beat too uncomfortable that the gentle dialogue is lost. Still, the dancing and performances were no less enjoyable without the dialogue.
The choreography is contemporary hip hop and is very fast paced throughout. Impressively the energetic cast manage to keep up the tempo and their flips and tricks are simply mesmerising.
The set allows the dancers to climb over and through tall wooden panels as well as jump off them. The moving set helps the dancers transition smoothly from one scene to the next while never letting the energy drop for a moment.
This is primarily a dance show so the dialogue isn’t too developed but it’s just enough to fill in any gaps and settle any confusion for audiences not familiar with the story. The Artful Dodger even goes through the events in the second act just in case anyone wasn’t able to follow it. There are references to the more well-known story (Fagin dreams about “food, glorious food” and later tells Oliver to consider himself “part of the family”). However, it isn’t at all necessary to be familiar with this version to understand the show.
It would be impossible to pick out one dancer from the ensemble as they all deserve praise and work together wonderfully to complement Tony Adigun’s choreography impeccably. The set transforms the auditorium into the dim streets of Victorian London and the dancers are compelling from start to finish. It’s a modern twist on an old tale.
Fagin’s Twist plays at The Place until October 15.
Photo: Rachel Cherry