In the words of one of the characters in last week’s production of Oliver by the Berwickshire High School, “I’ll eat my own head” if you were lucky enough to be in the audience and have managed to stop singing any of the fabulously rendered tunes yet.
From the opening bars of Food Glorious Food to the reprisal of Consider Yourself as the closing number, we were treated to a show of outstanding talent from all involved. Hard to believe that most of the cast were under 18.
In fact, Nathan Landon, in the lead role is one of the S1 pupils who took part. He played Oliver with all the childlike innocence and wonder of Mark Lester, the original Oliver in the 1968 film adaptation. Unlike Lester, however, who couldn’t sing and apparently had to have all his songs dubbed, Nathan sang beautifully, wringing just the right amount of emotion from the heart rending Where is Love.
Xenia Garden at half the age of Shani Wallis, who played Nancy in the film version, managed to portray every drop of the same maturity and stoic suffering. With a voice way beyond her years and the passion to make you believe she IS Nancy, she brought joy, pathos and poignancy to the part, whether in the exuberance of Oom-Pah-Pah or the astounding As Long as He Needs Me, when you could have heard a pin drop.
Every single person involved, whether onstage or off played the part to perfection and deserves a special mention:
Ewan Steady as a brilliant Dodger with a glint in his eye and a cheeky grin, Rory Hamilton as a scarily convincing Bill Sykes, threatening menace at every turn, Susanna McEwen sweetly supporting Nancy as Bet, Matthew Taylor bumbling along as Mr Bumble with Maddy Cawthorn as his shrew of a wife, Widow Corney, Ross Ferguson and Daisy Hicks-Watkins excellent as Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, Gregor Murray bringing humour to the several parts he played, Rowan Stanforth as kindly Mr Brownlow, Lydia Bayles nursing Oliver as Mrs Bedwin and Olivia Cummings as Charlotte.
Also deserving a special mention is Ronald Drummond, bidding a fond farewell to 40 years of teaching at Berwickshire High School with a fabulous performance as everyone’s favourite lovable rogue, Fagin.
Looking every inch the part, his rendition of Reviewing the Situation was one of the many highlights of the show.
All of the principal characters also doubled up, joining with Fagin’s gang and the chorus of Londoners, who did a stupendous job in their supporting roles, adding real colour and life to such well loved classics as Cheerioo, Oom Pah Pah and Who Will Buy.
Pupils also provided technical support with Will Derries and Ross Brodie on lighting and Scott Turnbull on sound. Barnaby Bevan joined the amazing orchestra on trumpet.
Of course, none of it could have happened without the vision, commitment, enthusiasm, leadership, good humour and sheer hard work of the suave and dashing musical director, Cameron Mabon, principal teacher of expressive arts at the school, who had nothing but praise for the pupils involved and whose take on their performance was “Totes amazeballs.”
It has been 30 years since the school produced a full scale musical, although the music department has developed a well deserved reputation for excellent concerts since then and many pupils perform regularly with The Maltings Youth Theatre, Borders Youth Theatre, Duns Amateur Operatic Society or Duns Players for example. After last week’s run of three sell out shows and Friday night’s well deserved standing ovation, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 30 years.