Oliver! at the Mayflower Theatre

Poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah

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Arriving at the Mayflower Theatre for a month long stint, Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver! pick-pocketed and oompah-pah-pahed the Southampton audience back to Dickensian London.

The production started strongly, with the washed-out workhouse children singing about that oh so glorious thing called food, and the level of performance carried on throughout.

And Fagin’s gang didn’t disappoint, with children from Bournemouth to the Isle Of Wight showcasing the south coast’s best young talent.

Portsmouth’s own Jack Edwards played an intimidating Mr Bumble as he sold the unsuspecting Oliver, and Cat Simmons dazzled as the down-trodden Nancy.

Harry Polden was a picture perfect Oliver and Max Griesbach was as cheeky as any artful dodger should be.

But the real crowd pleaser was Brian Conley’s Fagin. Bristling over with brooding menace his comic timing never failed to hit the mark – and drew the biggest laughs. His movement and presence expressed the brilliantly mischievous thief we all know and love wonderfully.

The set and character’s costumes provided a rich tapestry for the scenes as the audience lapped-up the likes of I’d Do Anything and Who Will Buy, with more than a couple of people quite happily bouncing along in their seats.

A timeless favourite.