Constance Cox’s uncompromising 1962 adaptation of Dickens’ tale of a gang of orphan boys turned to crime changed the face of British Sunday teatime viewing. Her unvarnished depiction of despair and depravity in the back alleys of 19th-century London, the cruel divide between rich and poor, and the brutal murder of Nancy shattered expectations of cosy family drama and led to public outcry.
But this is Oliver as Dickens intended, without the enforced jollity of the blockbuster Lionel Bart/Carol Reed musical. Max Adrian stars as villainous Fagin, Peter Vaughan an indelibly brutal Bill Sikes, Bruce Prochnik a gentle Oliver, Melvyn Hayes a spry Artful Dodger, and Carmel McSharry the trapped and powerless Nancy. In support are Willoughby Goddard as bullying beadle Bumble, Gay Cameron as kindly aunt Rose Maylie, John Carson’s cowardly Monks and Donald Eccles’ bitter undertaker Sowerberry.
“Please sir, I want some more.”