This is another review of an old classic reinvented for the modern generation, by the talented Brendan P. Kelso at Playing with Plays: 'Oliver Twist for Kids'. One of the main struggles of Literature teachers all over the world is to get young people enthralled by the books that have been read for centuries. Sometimes, admittedly it can be hard for kids to be able to relate to stories from more than a hundred years ago, as indeed it has changed what it means to be a child, and what audiences would find entertaining. The struggle is constant and never-ending: to relate to and entertain the modern generation, whilst keeping the main values of the story intact. I was so excited when I was sent a review of 'Oliver Twist for Kids' as Oliver Twist was one of my favourite books as a child and I wanted to see if Kelso would be able to translate this timeless classic into a fun, enjoyable and accessible play for kids to be able to perform. As usual, he did, and with the wit and humour that would be sure to appeal to kids (and adults!) of all ages.
As is always the case with Kelso's series, I was struck with how real he made the characters, and how their integral selves shone through their dialogue and interactions with the other characters. As should be the case with any play written for children, no part was a small part, and even the characters usually seen as minor were given fabulous dialogue and a good amount of time spent on stage. Kelso managed to keep 'Oliver Twist for Kids' short and snappy without losing the crucial bits of the story and keeping the themes and complexities of the story perfectly clear. When I first read Oliver Twist I remember feeling horribly confused at the relations between the characters and what groups they all belonged to, ect. But with Kelso's adaptation, not only were the 'good guys', 'bad guys' and 'in-betweeners' clearly set out at the beginning, with a short description detailing any relationship they had with the other characters, and who they would eventually turn out to be, but the story was so clearly written that there could be no confusion.
The characters themselves were warm, charming and appealing to a younger audience. There was enough of the serious stuff of the original Oliver Twist story to sustain the meaning of the play, without holding back the humour and risking making the message too heavy. There were many humorous moments and slang was used so that the kids performing could not only relate to the characters, but actually understand what they were saying. Although the play was clearly simplified to suit a younger cast, I still found myself laughing along with the comedy, warming to characters like Nancy, Oliver and the Artful Dodger, and tensing at the moments that made me nervous when I first read Dickens' classic.
Overall, 'Oliver Twist for Kids' was another resounding success for Playing with Plays, and it fulfilled its purpose of creating plays from 'tricky' classics that were enjoyable and accessible for kids to perform, allowing them to enjoy the literature that adults are often guilty of thinking too advanced for them.
Visit their website here: PlayingWithPlays.com