Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

19/07/2018 - 21/07/2018

Production Details

A cheeky twist on the classic Charles Dickens novel.

After a chance meeting with the mercurial Artemis Dawkins, Olivia Twist finds herself taken in by a lively burlesque theatre, The Artful Dodgers.

But firebrand preacher Reverend Sykes in on a moral crusade to stamp out indecent entertainment with Olivia’s new home being his next target.

The original musical puts a spin on the well-known plot and characters with some sassy song and dance along the way.

With script by Ross MacLeod and music by Jeremy Mayall and Nick Braae, Artful Dodgers will leave you asking, “Please Sir, may I have some more?”

The Meteor Theatre
19th, 20th, 21st July
Book at

Olivia Twist – Jade Okey
Artemis Dawkins – Courteney Nielsen
Charley Bates – Wairehu Grant
Reverend William – Sikes Ross MacLeod
Nancy – Genevieve Sheffield
Father Bumble/ Mr Brownlow – Clive Lamdin
Sister Corney/ Mrs Bedwin – Abigail Simpson
Rupert Locke – Grant Hughes
Noah – Tim Kapoor
Giles – Tim Von Ahsen
Performer – Maya Hasegawa
Urchin – Jade Gisby  

Theatre , Musical , Burlesque ,

A refreshing, delightful, smart play on a literary classic

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 20th Jul 2018

It is a ridiculously rainy night in Hamilton city so I am pleased to note an almost capacity crowd for the opening night of Ross MacLeod’s new work Artful Dodgers.

Eight years and a fair few hiccups in the making, prolific Hamilton playwright, actor and director MacLeod’s programme notes that the motivation for the piece rests in the rise and rise of burlesque in New Zealand. Here, MacLeod strips (forgive the pun – of which there are some goodies in the script) the burlesque scene back to Victorian London; coincidentally the backdrop of Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist.

So we meet Artemis Dawkins (sensationally played by Courtney Nielsen), the flirty ring mistress, at The Artful Dodger burlesque theatre, which is a colourful party land. Think Moulin Rouge meets corner pub; there is definitely more than a shade of this cult classic tease joint here, mixed with that ‘ye olde worlde’ British beer swilling, and a fair dose of good old fashioned God bothering.

Enter, doe-eyed orphan ingénue Olivia Twist (Jade Okey); not so passive a protagonist as Oliver, not as needy though definitely naïve, and charming thank goodness, else I might find myself fighting the urge to leap off my seat and shake her!

My highlight of the night is listening to Charley Bates (Wairehu Grant) sing: his is a powerful, tuneful voice. Similarly the performance MacLeod gives as singing, dancing evangelical preacher Reverend Sykes is, whilst spare, altogether impressive.

Choreographer Hannah Grant has done a wonderful job with the dancers, though the spark brought of unity is missing in the ensemble – I suspect a lack of disciplined practise, which I am always disappointed by.

MacLeod has written some lovely songs, the music of which Jeremy Mayall and Nick Braae have arranged well, bringing variation and texture to each song. More focus on bringing the core cast’s voices together would make a stellar difference to what is at times a patchy front line.

The storyline is well-written and wonderfully comic; a hearty showcase of the playwright’s own intelligence and naturally dry wit. There is something to be said for MacLeod’s gift in re-inventing the wheel; all too often a parodied storyline crossed over a pop culture art form breeds cringe inducing cheesy theatre. Not so here. Artful Dodgers’ is refreshing, offering a delightful, smart play on a literary classic, with plenty of ‘T and A’ to boot. Spoiler alert: this is more than a musical celebration of emancipation, coming of age, and bringing down the bible-bashing conservatives. This show is also a celebration of the flesh – prepare to be titillated!

The lighting is fresh and simple, and the cast is wrapped up in well-made period costuming (sadly I cannot congratulate the costume designer as none is named in the programme).

Artful Dodgers’ is a charming, cheeky night out which will warm even the coldest heart. MacLeod’s programme notes end with his hopes that we are left wanting more; though sated, myself and my date for the night have enjoyed the show immensely. Altogether a win for veteran Hamilton company Apocalypse Lounge.


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