Oliver! gets my vote for a night of entertainment

My daughter had to be Alan Sugar
My daughter had to be Alan Sugar

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I got my comeuppance the other day after I laughed out loud at a text from my friend.

‘Matthew is going to be a velociraptor at the class assembly and I have to make the costume!’

How I laughed! Until my daughter proclaimed that she had to be Alan Sugar in that same class assembly. Don’t ask what the connection between an extinct dinosaur and a curmudgeon best known for appearing on The Apprentice might be, just go with it.

The costumes were thrown together in time and, of course, the whole thing was a triumph. But this was the last in a long series of end-of-term events that have dogged me for the past three weeks.

I have worked out that if I added up all the time spent going to prize givings, music assemblies, class assemblies, sports days, summer fetes and school plays, I have spent many days of my life sitting/standing/manning a stall, all in the name of parental support.

Of course, I am happy to do this and there is nothing more wonderful than watching your child play a keyboard for about 15 seconds, then sit for another 35 minutes whilst everyone else’s child has a pop at Three Blind Mice.

But there was one performance I attended recently that was so good I chose to return the following evening to see it again.

As reported in The News, the City of Portsmouth Girls’ School put on a performance of Oliver! The interesting twist to this was that it was the girls’ initiative, run by students for students.

I have always been a keen theatregoer and have seen Helen Mirren, Sir John Mills and Daphne from Neighbours on stage (although not all at the same time). I have sold programmes to the good people of Watford and Brighton, and flogged them over-priced cornettoes too.

I have even performed in a handful of school plays as well. Who could forget my Tramp number 2 in the slightly off-the-wall celebration of vaudeville at Laurence Haines Junior School, circa 1979?

But nothing could have prepared me for this show.

The first thing that struck me was the live orchestra. Conducted by the ubiquitous and dedicated Becky Hill, they performed flawlessly. The set was simple yet effective, reflecting the dinginess of Victorian London. And the singing and acting was superb.

On the first night, my eight-year-old was nearly in tears after Nancy mournfully sang As Long As He needs Me.

And we were all enthralled at Fagin’s characterisation – his/her rapport with the audience was confident and funny. It certainly put my tramp to shame.

I was intrigued to see how they would tackle Nancy’s horrible demise and I think that the whole audience had to catch their breath after Bill Sikes appeared to brutally bludgeon her to death with a rounders bat.

It was genuinely shocking and on the second night a small child howled with fear at the sight.

Special mention must be made of Bea Tookey and Rosie Kendall who were the students who brought it all together, even though, as Year 11s, they had already left the school when the play was performed.