Hey guys!! So this weekend, I watched an amazing hip hop dance fused with a classic story which was named ‘Fagin’s Twist’. This performance completely unravelled the tale of Oliver Twist, focusing on Fagin and his journey from being an orphaned, workhouse inmate to conniving, powerful gang ring leader. It was part of the Back to Ours half term events. With the Artful Dodger as lead narrator, all the characters danced and acted their way through this interesting, arcane story which dared to imagine what life was like before Oliver Twist was recruited to their gang. It showcased Fagin’s character development and really painted him as a misunderstood villain. So in today’s post, I’m going to describe this performance and it’s storyline, granting you with my honest opinion of it.
Just to help you understand the storyline better, here’s a bit of context from the story of Oliver Twist which intertwines with ‘Fagin’s Twist’. Oliver Twist is orphaned and in the workhouse in his early years much like Fagin. After Oliver’s famous “Please sir, I want some more line.”, Oliver is forced to work for an undertaker. Trouble enrages there between him and the other bullying apprentice Noah Claypole and Oliver flees to London in search of a better life.
This is when Oliver falls in with Fagin and his gang of thieving pickpockets. The Artful Dodger recruits Oliver from the street and they train him up to be a pickpocket. In Fagin’s gang, there’s Fagin of course, Bill Sikes, Nancy, the Artful Dodger and some more minor characters such as Bet and Barney. The ending of ‘Fagin’s Twist’ actually differs from the ending of the play and it’s a much darker ending for both Fagin and Oliver Twist.
The scene is set in the workhouse where young Fagin is orphaned and destined to a miserable life wasting away in there. He meets Bill Sikes, a fellow inmate who dreams of one day having a girlfriend and a family. Even from the beginning, Fagin has an implacable desire to become wealthy and powerful. The two of them hatch an elaborate, clandestine plot to escape from the workhouse which works perfectly.
They discover an old building where they set up a base and begin picking pockets to survive. With time, their business evolves and they employ lots of people with Fagin as the ring leader. It seems as though both of their dreams are coming true as Bill Sikes now has a girlfriend Nancy who’s in the gang and Fagin’s riches and power are cumulating every day. In the gang, you’ve got to be tough to survive and there are lots of clashes between the various characters. Bill Sikes becomes addicted to alcohol and he abuses Nancy as a result. As one of Fagin’s most skilled pick pockets, it’s the Artful Dodger’s job to recruit new members and so one day, Oliver Twist comes stumbling into their den of thieves alongside him.
They train up Oliver to be a conniving, deceitful trickster. At first, he struggles with mastering pick pocketing which leads to Nancy attempting to console him and help him. She recognises his innocent, youthful side and how he doesn’t quite fit in with the toughened, sly thieves of the gang. She vows to protect him as best she can. All of them see different sides of Oliver. Fagin and Dodger see the twinkle of ambition in his eye and his potential in the industry of pick pocketing. Nancy sees a youthful innocence and a sweet smile. But Bill Sikes can see through him to his devilish, scheming side which the gang has drawn out of him.
All the gang members are begging, nagging, pleading Fagin for more food. This inspires his soliloquy to the audience where he rants about how people always want more. His insatiable desire for power and wealth and the responsibilites as the ring leader of the gang are too much for him to handle. He abandons his coat and Oliver showcases his sly side by stealing Fagin’s prized pocket watch.
Upon discovering the disappearance of his watch, Fagin lines up all the gang members and searches for it, absolutely infuriated. Oliver acts like an innocent angel but Bill, being heavily drunk, sees through him and corners him to beat him up. Acting on her promise, Nancy separates them and protects Oliver but it costs her her life as Bill murders her. Still searching for his watch, Fagin appears and Oliver plants the watch on Bill and successfully convinces Fagin that he stole it. The three of them fight it out and Fagin becomes Bill’s second victim of murder in one night.
After murdering two people, Bill is isolated from the gang and Oliver snatches up Fagin’s place. He is now the leader and he builds up his own gang of thieves.
Throughout the performance, the dancing was really intricate and synchronized and it perfectly fit to the music. I’m at a loss for how they remembered it all as the performance was about an hour and a half long and they spent a lot of that time dancing. The acting and dancing overall were incredible and the storyline was easy to follow through the dancing, acting and narrations. The lighting on stage heavily dramatized the performance and the music reflected the mood of the story at the point it was playing at. They included classic lines from the play such as “Glorious food!”, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”, and “You want more?!”. The only slight criticism I have is that if you weren’t familiar with the story of Oliver Twist, you may find it more difficult to follow the story and understand the characters.
For me, I completely loved the performance and it’s my favourite performance from Back to Ours that we’ve been to so far. I was always intrigued by the story of Oliver Twist so it was amazing to witness a tale from Fagin’s perspective with dancing to accompany it. Fagin is such a misunderstood character in this adaption and I loved his character development. It was interesting and ironic that Fagin and his gang brought out the sly, conniving side of Oliver and that was what caused their ruin in the end. I was actually quite annoyed in the end when Oliver stole everything that Fagin had worked for after stealing his prized pocket watch. I really wish that I could watch the performance all over again.
Thanks for reading this post! Do you know the story of Oliver Twist? Let me know in the comments section! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull