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Based on Charles Dickens' novel, this adaptation traces the childhood of an orphan whose mother dies giving birth to him in an English work-house in the 1820s. Little Oliver Twist, already abused, starved and overworked, is apprenticed to an undertaker and runs away to London after being bullied by an older apprentice. There, he is taken in by Fagin, a fence and thief-trainer, and his gang of pickpockets. He is befriended by Nancy, a good-hearted prostitute, and meets her lover, the brutal housebreaker Bill Sikes. But attempts by the gang to discredit him result in his being taken in by Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy and charitable man, who proves the catalyst for Oliver's discovery of his background and identity. Here Alan Bleasdale's dramatisation differs from Dickens' novel, in that Oliver does not fall into Brownlow's hands by coincidence, and we already know his back story: he's the child of a young woman named Agnes Fleming and her married lover, Edwin Leeford, who dies while on a trip... Written by
The very flowery wording in the episode titles is based on the language which Charles Dickens used for the chapter titles in his original novel "Oliver Twist". See more »
I will not peach on Nancy!
She just peached on us!
[Charley punches him and the boys fight]
[Dodger yanks him up]
Now, I'm gonna go back now and tell Fagin what you done. And then, I'm gonna go with him. Maybe we'll hide now and go tomorrow. But you got nowhere to go and no where to hide
[Dodger slaps Charley]
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Surely Oliver Twist has been 'done to death' by now. It must be one of the popular standard novels for dramatisation; and nearly every fan of historical dramas must have seen several versions of it.
And now for something completely different. This version is a modern re-writing of the story and does not follow the novel closely. Or at least, it follows it very loosely. At the end of episode one Oliver has only just been born. And born in graphic detail -- rather more realistic than a midwifery video. Half the first episode is spent in Rome.
In this modern re-telling Oliver's antecedents are explained in detail: his parentage, his weak-willed father, his exploited mother, his evil, murderous mother and insane half-brother. How Agnes Fleming's portrait is found in Mr Brownlow's house is explained; the story of the locket is told in loving detail. And all this with the excellence in recreating the 19th century that only the British can muster.
If you are a purist who likes your Dickens to follow the book as closely as possible then this recreation may not be for you. I love Dickens but nevertheless found this version -- the story behind the story -- to be a marvellous, entertaining dramatisation.
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