Dark world of Dickens comes to a Leamington stage

A DARK and intense one-man play that was a West End sell-out promises to enthral and grip an audience at the Spa Centre in Leamington next weekend.

Written, produced and performed by James Hyland, Fagin’s Last Hour is adapted from chapter 52 of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, during which the miser is put on trial and condemned to execution.

James, who has recently won a Best Performer award in the Theatre 2012 Fringe Report Awards and is a London Theatre Awards 2012 nominee, brings a psychological exploration of the character to the stage with his production company Brother Wolf and director Phil Lowe.

Speaking to the Courier before the touring show arrives in Leamington, he said: “My play is set in the last hour of Fagin’s life and he is hanged when the bell tolls at 9am at the end of the play.

“During that last hour, we see Fagin on the brink of insanity and extreme mental distress.

“He explains how he came to be in his position.”

A huge fan of Dickens’ novels, James, who has also written and produced an adaptation of Hard Times and a play called A Christmas Carol As Told By Jacob Marley (Deceased), was captivated by this particular chapter of Oliver Twist because of its “sheer drama”.

He said: “The themes are a very poignant look at how society disposed of the poor. This is what happened to Fagin.

“Dickens is saying it’s not necessarily Fagin’s fault that he is this way - it’s the societal influences that put him there and it’s these very influences which are now disposing of him.

“If you are poor in Dickens’ time, you can either go to the workhouse, be separated from your family and fed very limited amounts of food; you can go to the streets and starve; or you can resort to crime. Fagin chose the latter.”

He added: “The novel contains a huge amount of horror, which is often left out of many other adaptations.

“Oliver Twist has always been a dark tale. What happens to Oliver is not at all pleasant.”

Writing, producing and taking on a very intense role in a solo show is clearly extremely demanding, but for James, it is a challenge he relishes.

He said: “Dickens was a genius and it’s a pleasure for me to adapt any of his works.”

Fagin’s Last Hour is on at the Spa Centre’s studio on Saturday March 24 at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £12 or £11 if booked online. Call 0845 218 3540 or visit www.royalspacentreandtownhall.co.uk