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Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist “Charles Dickens’
  Oliver Twist has been
  dramatised for television
  and screen many times,
  as well as having been
  made into a musical.
  And now, the latest
  gripping BBC1 adaptation
  that breathed new life
  into the much-loved novel
  is released on DVD for
  the first time...”

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT… (Yes, really!) the night Oliver Twist was born into poverty in Mudfog Workhouse and the same night that his unmarried mother died, leaving him alone to be brought up in squalor and deprivation.

The cruelty of the workhouse — where drawing attention to yourself with something so trivial as a sneeze is to bring down the wrath of the sadistic Mr Bumble (Gregor Fisher, Rab C Nesbitt, Nicholas Nickleby) or the sycophantic Mrs Corney (Sarah Lancashire, Clocking Off, Where The Heart Is) — with its near-starvation rations of gruel, becomes too much for Oliver (appealingly played by William Miller, cast in his first major lead role). Having plucked up the courage to ask for more food, he is compelled to face the avaricious Workhouse Board, accused of the very sins they themselves commit: pride, gluttony and covetous-ness. Labelled as a troublemaker, Oliver is advertised for sale at two guineas.

Bought by undertaker Mr Sowerberry (John Sessions) — whose whingeing wife, played by the marvellous Michelle Gomez, has a fixation with hats — the hapless Oliver is ill used by apprentice Noah Claypole (Adam Gillen) and is destined to return to the workhouse. But Oliver is made of sterner stuff and, when Mr Bumble comes for him, he makes a run for it. Leaving a trail of bloodied noses and bruised bodies, he sets off to travel the 70 miles to London.

On arriving in the bustling city, he is spotted by the Artful Dodger (gifted newcomer Adam Arnold) and is drawn into the dark and murky underworld of Fagin (the accomplished Timothy Spall at his most excellent, Harry Potter, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Our Mutual Friend) and his gang — including the violent Bill Sikes (a terrifically sinister Tom Hardy, Cape Wrath, Layer Cake) and Nancy, the whore with the heart of gold (another superb performance from Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda, Scenes of a Sexual Nature).

And so Oliver begins the adventures that will almost lead him into the deadly hands of the mysterious Mr Monks (Julian Rhind-Tutt, Green Wing, The Rotters' Club), and finally to Mr Brownlow (Edward Fox, A Passage to India), who has links to Oliver's past. But will he ever discover the mystery of his birth and find a safe and loving home?

Handsomely adapted by Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), one of Britain's most dynamic stage and television writers, Oliver Twist unites a talented and sympathetic all-star cast that also includes the ever-dependable Anna Massey as Mrs Bedwin; Rob Brydon (Gavin and Stacey, Marion and Geoff) as Mr Fang; the very watchable Morven Christie as Rose and Mariah Gale as Agnes. The adorable baby Oliver
is played by Louis Edelston.

Oliver Twist, featuring all five instalments of this dark and edgy drama, is released on 10 March (2008). The DVD also includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Oliver Twist series.

Oliver Twist: Cat No BBCDVD2572 | Period Drama | Duration 180 mins approx | RRP £19.99.