YOU can always count on the Chester Storyhouse to put a novel twist in their Christmas productions.

There, I've said it, a 'novel' and 'twist' - a festive play on words. What the Dickens is going on, I hear you say?

I didn't start it ... that's thanks to this adaptation by Alex Clifton, the former Storyhouse artistic director.

He has departed in suitable style with director Kash Arshed injecting real Christmassey strands into this affectionate re-working on an atmospheric Victorian-themed set.

We are all familiar with the famous fllm and stage versions - notably Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! but this is a refreshing modern interpretation and happily relayed in smashing period costumes.

Wirral Globe:

Production image by Mark McNulty

The song list, under musical director Matthew Ganley (he also has his work cut out as Mr Bumble and Bill Sikes), is inspired.

There are acoustic, folksy versions of The Jam's That's Entertainment and Going Underground as well as I Fought the Law by The Clash, Ever Fallen in Love from Buzzcocks as well as This Charming man from The Smiths.

Oliver and his street-wise friends are made up from members of The Storyhouse Youth Theatre (four teams alternating).

On the opening night we met a rather passive Oliver - who did not speak until 35 minutes into the storyline.

Wirral Globe:

Production image by Mark McNulty

Casting always comes up trumps at the Storyhouse and this show is no exception with Fagin and Dodger played by women - Cynthia Emeagi and Keshini Misha respectively while funeral director Mrs Sowerberry is played by a man - Milton Lopes.

Milton, in a dame-like frock, is a real star. His ad-libing and contact with the audience has all the charm of a latter day Marx Brother. His remark about parties at Number 10 was not only topical but showed spot-on timing.

Wirral Globe:

Production image by Mark McNulty

There were nuanced perfromances too from Jessica Jolleys as nice Nancy and Adam Speers as kindly Mr Brownlow. There is also real canine playing Bullseye - Bill's faithful dog.

This is not an Oliver Twist for purists, but a fast-paced family show with a big heart.

I won't give away anymore surprises except to say that there is a happy ending courtesy of a festive quote from another Dickens classic.

A novel twist all over again ...

Globe verdict:

Four stars

A cracking Christmas comedy

The production's run ends on January 16

Tickets, 0124 440 9113 or