|Tom Edden as Fagin|
On Wednesday evening, Shirley and I went to The Crucible Theatre to see a production of Lionel Bart's "Oliver". In front of us, there were two rows of Muslim schoolgirls in their obligatory headscarves - which they kept on even though they were indoors under warm theatre lighting. Where in the Koran does it insist that Muslim girls should wear headscarves when they are out and about or am I being Islamophobic?
Anyway - "Oliver". Frances had given us two tickets for Christmas and the show was a delight. It's amazing what a group of human beings can do in the theatre. From absolutely nothing, they plan and plot and rehearse, make contacts, inject new ideas, apply make-up, add music and lighting - bringing it all together with a magical kind of energy and shared vision.
"Oliver" is a fine musical with several strong and memorable songs. It has already passed the test of time. And it has a special resonance for me because in 1982 when I was a young English teacher at Rowlinson School in south Sheffield, I was selected to play the part of the dark and menacing Bill Sikes in the annual school production. It was a role I relished for it seemed entirely in tune with my fearsome disposition:-
Strong men tremble when they hear it!
They've got cause enough to fear it!
It's much blacker than they smear it!
But the star of Wednesday night's "Oliver" was not Bill Sikes, Nancy or even soppy little Oliver Twist himself but Fagin played by Tom Edden. He was brilliant and his rendition of "Reviewing the Situation" was truly memorable as he danced and strutted semitically around the stage - making each action serve the song - so thoroughly "into" his role that it wasn't like acting at all. Marvellous.
Lord knows what the Muslim girls thought of it all as they filed out - still in their headscarves. I have a natural antipathy towards any kind of religious garb and I wondered if their daughters and grand-daughters will still be clinging to that inherited medieval creed in years to come - still in their headscarves. I hope not.