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ConArtists in Oliver Twisted: An Improvised Dickens

ConArtists in Oliver Twisted

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Following the huge success of Austen Found and Enid Untold; ConArtists are back to deliver great improvisations as they invent a brand new Dickensian theatrical every night. Mrs Plodswallop or perhaps Mr Smigglesquelch will bring Victorian England alive; complete with urchins, prostitutes and gruel. You’ll be wanting some more as it’ll be the best of times; and the best of times.

“Jane Austen would be turning in her grave with delight” – Rip It Up, AUS

www.conartists.co.nz

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Showing In:

Auckland

Dates:

Tue 29 April - Sat 3 May, 8pm

Venues:

Horse and Trap, Auckland

Tickets:

Adults $25.00
Conc. $20.00
Groups 6+ $20.00* service fees may apply

Bookings:

0508 iTICKET (484 2538)

Show Duration:

1 hour
 

Critics Review

Lexie Matheson - Theatreview.org'The whole thing is monumentally silly, and it's meant to be, but underlying the silliness and simple joy that Conartists generate there are finely crafted performances and a slick understanding of narrative progression that never lets the ball drop...'open/close
Charles Dickens wrote, “Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.”

He might well have been talking about Conartists production of Oliver Twisted, a long form improvisation which owes a lot to Mr Dickens and not overly much to his great serialised novel Oliver Twist or, as it was aptly subtitled, ‘The Parish Boy's Progress'.

The journey changes in every performance because the audience sets the parameters but nevertheless what is created reeks of Dickens' London, the workhouse and a Victorian England filled with faux humbuggery, podsnappery and bumbledom.

Sure, in this iteration, Oliver Twisted has an orphanage, a handsome, down-on-his-luck hero (Peter Muller's plays this somewhat maladroit fellow) and there are a couple of meanish, pick-pockety kids but there is no Fagin – Penny Ashton's epiphany-prone orphanage matron came close – and Bill Sykes' dog is missing in action. Even Lori Dungey's wonderful cameo rat can't replace Bull's Eye the bull terrier, a sympathy grabber if ever there was one. All this matters not one jot.

There is, however, plenty more that is acutely Dickensian, which is pretty dashed clever when you consider that satirising a work which is itself a satire should be a seriously tricky proposition but in the hands of these Conartists it seems easy-peasy.

The choice of venue – upstairs in a public house called the Horse and Trap – is singularly appropriate and provides the audience who are seated, and served, at tables with excellent sight lines. Even a hearing-impaired, older person like myself can hear almost every word.

The set is deliciously functional. Three clothes stands decked with bonnets, hats, shawls and the like, a tall rose-tree-in-a-pot that somehow finds itself integral to almost every scene, a couple of raised, workhouse-like forms, a pair of smallish blackboards on stands all in sepia/tan tones provide a fitting Victorian backdrop to the riotous action that fills this hour upon the stage, all of which is singularly reminiscent of a Fezziwig Christmas gathering: that drawing room style entertainment highly fashionable in Dickens' day.

The characters created by this excellent seven strong ensemble can best be described as stereotypical but, more often than not, they surprise with unanticipated depth. Lindsey Brown as the naïve heroine Lady Sarah Goodheart is touchingly Pickwickian in her simplicity and decency. Her singing – also a delight – is used to provide a major shift in character emphasis for three of the netherworld characters played to the hilt by the wicked Penny Ashton, the somewhat austere Madeleine Lynch and Marc Sautelet in naughty Artful Dodger mode.

Read more here:
http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=6983
Lexie Matheson - Theatreview.org.nz'Finely crafted silliness creates contagious good humour...'open/close
The set is deliciously functional. Three clothes stands decked with bonnets, hats, shawls and the like, a tall rose-tree-in-a-pot that somehow finds itself integral to almost every scene, a couple of raised, workhouse-like forms, a pair of smallish blackboards on stands all in sepia/tan tones provide a fitting Victorian backdrop to the riotous action that fills this hour upon the stage, all of which is singularly reminiscent of a Fezziwig Christmas gathering: that drawing room style entertainment highly fashionable in Dickens' day.

The characters created by this excellent seven strong ensemble can best be described as stereotypical but, more often than not, they surprise with unanticipated depth. Lindsey Brown as the naïve heroine Lady Sarah Goodheart is touchingly Pickwickian in her simplicity and decency. Her singing – also a delight – is used to provide a major shift in character emphasis for three of the netherworld characters played to the hilt by the wicked Penny Ashton, the somewhat austere Madeleine Lynch and Marc Sautelet in naughty Artful Dodger mode.

Peter Muller, the audience choice to play the heroic lead, is a gentleman of no fixed ability named ironically, also at audience behest, Heathcliff Emerald-Crunch.

Emerald-Crunch, anticipating a considerable inheritance from the passing of his mother, is shocked to find from his jolly old Dad (Lori Dungey) that there is no legacy and that he is, to all intents and purposes, broke. Haunted ceaselessly by the terrifying ghost of his mother (Clare Kelso), he finds a job, finds love and finds an abode before rescuing his beloved Lady Sarah from the rat-infested basement of a London tavern where she is held by villains and awaiting a fate worse than death: transportation to Australia.

Observing this, his mother has a massive change of heart and shares with him where her secret stash of goodies is to be found and all ends happily. She has, after all, experienced hell, didn't care for it much and this is her ticket to more temperate climes.

The whole thing is monumentally silly, and it's meant to be, but underlying the silliness and simple joy that Conartists generate there are finely crafted performances and a slick understanding of narrative progression that never lets the ball drop.

For the full review head to:
http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=6983

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