Oliver Twist – A Play Based on the Novel by Charles Dickens
Cast of 15 speaking parts; or Cast of 30 if including non-speaking parts
Duration: Around 15 minutes not including song suggestions
Oliver Twist, following on from the popular Christmas Carol, is the second in a series of Charles Dickens adaptations – the others being David Copperfield, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.
Suitable from age 10 upwards, this is a set of scripts written with Key Stage III in mind. I will be adding further teaching resources in the near future. It is my aim to make these great classics accessible to young people and adults alike*Scroll down for review.
Whilst sticking to the original story, this one has a much happier ending for everyone; and has Fagin ‘putting our Narrator right’ on what it was actually like to live in Victorian England.
(Enter Fagin, marching over to Narrator)
Fagin: (Threateningly) Criminal classes, eh? Oh, and I suppose you’d know a lot about what it was like to live in Victorian times, would you?
Narrator: (Spluttering) Well, er, now you come to mention it (pauses) no, not really.
Fagin: Well, allow me to fill you in. Let’s start with how hard it could be especially if you were poor.
Narrator: (Huffily) Well, I’ve no doubt there was social welfare for those who needed it.
Fagin: (Exploding) Social welfare? I’ll show you social welfare! Come with me. My, are you going to have your eyes opened!
Music 2 – Food Glorious Food
Scene 1 The Workhouse
(Fagin takes Narrator to one side as workhouse inmates line up, holding bowls and spoons, with Mr. Bumble standing at the front, ladling out the gruel; Oliver is last in line)
Narrator: (To Fagin) Why are these children dressed in rags? And why are they so filthy? And what is that terrible smell?
Fagin: So many questions! Well, to start with, those rags are all they have! Appearances aren’t too important when you are just trying to stay alive!
Narrator: But where are their parents?
Fagin: (Laughing) They have no parents! They’re all orphans. They have nowhere to go but the workhouse! (Pauses) And before you ask, that’s gruel they’re getting in those bowls! Pretty disgusting but, like I said, keeps them alive. Better that than dying on the streets.
(Oliver takes his bowl and sits with the rest; then gets up and stands in front of Mr. Bumble a second time)
Also available: Victorian Assembly/Class Play; and Meet the Victorians – set of guided reading scripts.
I can highly recommend Sue Russell’s plays for use with KS3 students. They are wonderful introductions to classic novels – capturing the mood and tone of the original and communicating the essence of plot and characters in a lively and highly accessible way. Students enjoy the vibrant dialogue and find scope for characterisation and the development of dramatic skills by performing them. These plays can be used in English lessons as well as Drama class. Dickens is a wonderful writer, but the sheer length of the novels and complexity of plot lines can be intimidating for students. Sue Russell’s plays are faithful to their originals yet also brilliantly condensed without any loss of key material.
Many thanks to my writer-friend Jude Hayland who, when not writing, works as drama teacher and English tutor.