Twisted, written by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and Joseph Jomo Pierre and directed by Nigel Shawn Williams, is a modern, shaken-up version of Dickens' Oliver Twist that understands the young generation.
A play with minimal face-to-face interaction, Nancy (Susanna Fournier) and Oliver (Ngabo Nabea) fill the void with memories – and a whole slew of text messages.
This is where the power of the script comes into play. Though direct interaction between the two characters is rare, each story and each conversation paints a perfectly detailed picture and nails each sensation with precision, down to every last cold wiener. Mix this with some spoken word poetry and musically driven body movement and these characters will have you hooked.
However, in order to fairly critique this show, the script has to be looked at not only as a standalone text, but also as a modern adaptation.
Dickens' Oliver Twist is stark criticism of Victorian society as a whole, whereas Twisted is a very intimate view of the repercussions of growing up in “the system” in present day Toronto. In order to adequately link the two narratives, Twisted needs to participate in larger social commentary, having a view of modern society that is less microcosmic.
The production elements were spot on. Projection designer Simeon Taole, incorporates massive videos and text message projections into the set design, bombarding us with the technology that consumes Nancy and Oliver's world. Sound designer Richard Lee and lighting designer Simon Rossiter worked together to create perfect beats of anticipation throughout the show.
This all coincides perfectly with the set design. Denyse Karn presents us with a very grey, cement block version of the city of Toronto, flipped completely on its side. Williams has the characters climbing these sideways buildings throughout the show.
Each grey block transforms into any place Oliver and Nancy need it to be. This set abstractly encompasses the larger issue of poverty in Toronto, as you have two characters trying to make their way through this city that's not standing the way it should be.
All in all, Twisted is a refreshing new show that definitely has some grit. It might not be Dickens, but I'd have some more.
Twisted runs at Factory Theatre until Feb. 22. For more information visit www.factory.ca.
photo credit: Racheal McCaig