TEACHER’S NOTES FOR

Oliver Twist Sample

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Arty-Fact Theatre Co
is based in the North-West of England and founded by Brian Twiddy & Yvonne Peacock. The company is committed to delivering a high quality performance that combines learning with entertainment.

www.arty-fact.co.uk27 Mount Drive
Nantwich CW5 6JG

Brief Outline of Oliver Twist

Oliver is born in a workhouse to an unknown mother, who dies in childbirth. The workhouse beadle, the pompous and self-important Mr Bumble, gives him the name “Oliver Twist”.

The boys are harshly treated, and when Oliver is urged by the other boys to ask for more food, he is removed from the workhouse and apprenticed to Sowerberry, an undertaker. This is not a long-term arrangement, because a fight with Sowerberry’s other apprentice, Noah Claypole, leads to Oliver finding himself on the streets to fend for himself.

Oliver makes his way to London, where he is soon found by Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the Artful Dodger, who takes him to meet Fagin, a receiver of stolen goods and the proprietor of a thieves’ kitchen from which boys are sent out to pick pockets and commit petty crimes.

Oliver’s training as a pickpocket is short and disastrous. He is apprehended when the real thieves bungle a theft but escape, leaving Oliver to face the music. The victim, Mr Brownlow, is, however, convinced that Oliver is innocent and secures his release when he is brought before the magistrate. Brownlow takes Oliver home with him, and word of this gets back to Fagin, whose concern is that Oliver will lead the Bow Street Runners to his den.

Oliver wins Mr Brownlow’s trust and is sent on an errand, but the house is being watched, and Oliver is kidnapped by two associates of Fagin, namely the housebreaker Bill Sikes and Nancy, a young lady.

 
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Sikes sees Oliver’s small size and native intelligence as an asset to him, and he takes Oliver to help him on a “job”. However, Oliver is clearly a jinx when it comes to criminal enterprises, and he ends up with a bullet in his shoulder. The occupants of the house, Rose Maylie & Giles her butler behave in a similar way to Mr Brownlow, taking Oliver in and caring for him as an innocent victim of a criminal gang.

We now meet Monks, who turns out to be Oliver’s half-brother, and who wants Oliver out of the way so that he, Monks, can inherit a fortune.

Nancy is concerned for Oliver’s welfare and tells both Rose and Mr Brownlow about Oliver’s whereabouts. Word gets back to Sikes about Nancy’s behaviour and he brutally murders Nancy.

Things now unravel as Sikes falls to his death while being chased and Fagin is arrested and condemned to be hanged. The chain of coincidences lead to the revelations that Oliver is Rose’s nephew, and his mother was once loved by Mr Brownlow.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born in a suburb of Portsmouth, England on 7th February 1812. His mother was Elizabeth and his father was John Dickens. When Charles was two years old, his father moved the family to Chatham, where Charles received some schooling, although he was supposedly already an avid reader.

In 1821, there were reforms in the Navy and John lost his job as clerk in the navy pay office and therefore most of the family income. Within three

years, John Dickens was arrested for debt and was imprisoned along with the rest of the family except Charles…

At the age of 12 years, Charles was put to work bottling shoe blacking (polish) in order to clear some of his father’s debts. At first he lodged in Camden and walked four miles to the factory every day, visiting his family at the weekend until they found lodgings for him close to their location.

Nearly four months after his arrest, Charles’ father was released from prison and the family returned to Camden Town. Although his mother, Elizabeth, wanted Charles to continue to work at the blacking factory, his father chose to send him to school where he studied until he turned 15. Charles’ first chosen career was as a journalist, he became a free lance reporter at Doctor’s Common Courts after working for two years as an office boy for an attorney.

 

In 1834, Charles worked as a reporter for the Morning Chronicle. The same year his father was again arrested for debt and Charles, for a second time, helped him out. Later, Charles was frequently requested by his entire family to supply them with financial aid.

The first fictional story that Charles had published appeared in “The Monthly Magazine.” It was entitled “A Dinner at Poplar Walk.” His literary career simply took off from that point and Charles became a full time novelist, his first work being “The Pickwick Papers”. Much of Charles’ work was first published as a serial in weekly periodicals although he began to release Christmas books on a regular basis, the first of which was “A Christmas Carol,” published in 1844, and the last being “The Haunted Man” in 1849.

 

Oliver Twist was sent to The Workhouse

Before 1834, poor people were looked after by buying food and clothing from money collected from land owners and other wealthy people. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, ensured that no able-bodied person could get poor relief unless they went to live in special workhouses. The idea was that the poor were helped to support themselves. They had to work for their food and accommodation.

What were workhouses?

Workhouses were where poor people who had no job or home lived. They earned their keep by doing jobs in the workhouse.

Also in the workhouses were orphaned (children without parents) and abandoned children, the physically and mentally sick, the disabled, the elderly and unmarried mothers.

Workhouses were often very large and were feared by the poor and old.

A workhouse provided:

  • A place to live
  • A place to work and earn money
  • Free medical care,
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Free education for children and training for a job.

The staff of a workhouse included:

  • A Master
  • A Matron
  • A Medical Officer
  • A Chaplain
  • A porter
  • A school-teacher

Workhouses provided almost everything that was needed onsite:

  • Dining-hall for eating
  • Dormitories for sleeping
  • Kitchen
  • School-rooms
  • Nurseries,
  • Rooms for the sick,
  • A chapel,
  • A mortuary
  • Bakery
  • Laundry
  • Tailors for making clothes
  • Shoe-maker
  • Vegetable gardens
  • Small farm

Why were workhouses feared by the poor and old?

The government, terrified of encouraging ‘idlers’ (lazy people), made sure that people feared the workhouse and would do anything to keep out of it.

What were workhouses like?

Women, children and men had different living and working areas in the workhouse, so families were split up. To make things even worse they could be punished if they even tried to speak to one another!

The education the children received did not include the two most important skills of all, reading and writing, which were needed to get a good job.

The poor were made to wear a uniform. This meant that everyone looked the same and everyone outside knew they were poor and lived in the workhouse.

Upon entering the workhouse, the poor were stripped and bathed (under supervision).

The food was tasteless and was the same day after day.

The young and old as well as men and women were made to work hard, often doing unpleasant jobs.

Children could also find themselves ‘hired out’ (sold) to work in factories or mines.

Worksheet 1

In the story of Oliver Twist you can see what life was like in Victorian times. Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter and you had to describe to the readers of your paper what it was like living in a workhouse.

Worksheet 2

Oliver was sold to an undertaker.
He ran away to London.
Where he met the Artful Dodger and Fagin.

What do you think you would have done in Oliver’s situation & how do you think you would be feeling?

Worksheet 3

Read the following excerpt of Oliver Twist see how many adjectives you can find, remember an adjective is a describing word.Oliver Twist was born in a workhouse. Where the boys were given three meals of thin gruel every day with an onion twice a week and half a roll on Sundays. And they were grateful for it. Oliver was sold to an Undertaker, but after an unfortunate incident, he ran away. He walked on and on for 7 days without food or proper rest, he was lost in London, until he met a very strange boy who had big ears, a flat brow and was covered in dirt. He was short for his age, with rather bowlegs and little sharp eyes. He wore a man’s coat, which reached to the ground, and his hat was stuck on his head so lightly that it looked as though it might fall off any moment. “Hullo! What’s the row?” Said the strange boy. “My name’s Jack Dawkins. Some as might call me The Artful Dodger”. Dawkins took Oliver to a dingy house, where he pushed open the door and called out… “Now Then”! There was a whistle in reply. Then the sound of scurrying and a man’s face peering from behind a candle. “There’s two on ya.” Said the man. “Who’s t’other one?” “This, Mr. Fagin, is Oliver Twist.” Oliver was taken up into a very dark and dirty room, where Fagin continued his interrupted task of cooking some sausages. “Dodger, take off these sausages. Ah! You’re staring at the pocket handkerchiefs, eh my dear. There are a lot of them ain’t there. We’ve just taken them out ready for the wash is all. Ha!”

Worksheet 4

Oliver was arrested by the police for trying to steal handkerchiefs.Mr Brownlow took pity on Oliver.
Mr Brownlow thought he recognized him from a family resemblance to a portrait he had.
See if you can draw a picture inside the locket,

Worksheet 5

If it wasn’t for Mr Brownlow Oliver would have eventually fallen on to hard times. Charles Dickens wrote about children in Victorian Britain. Why not compare the life of a Victorian Child age 8, like Oliver, with an 8 year old today. Make a list of good and bad things about their lives.

Choose one of these Victorian jobs.
Which one would you rather have done and why?

Housemaid
Chimney Sweep
Coal miner
Matchstick seller
Fluff picker in a factory

Worksheet 6

You might like to dress-up as a Victorian.

COSTUME IDEAS

GIRLS Victorian Costume GIRLS Victorian Costume
  • Long Skirt and white shirt
  • Shawl
  • Mob Cap
  • Dark Trousers and plain shirt
  • Waistcoat
  • Flat Cap

Instructions for making a mob cap:

Materials:
  1. A circle of cloth 18" diameter.
  2. Piece of elastic approx. 18".
  3. Pencil, Safety Pin and Pair of Scissors.

Instructions. Place the fabric on a table and mark a circle of dots on it approximately 3 inches in from the edge and about 2 inches apart. Then using your scissors cut tiny holes at the pencil marks and thread the elastic through, (using a safety pin attached to one end). Knot the elastic and make sure the mob cap fits before cutting off excess elastic.

COLOUR & FACT SHEET 1.

COLOUR & FACT SHEET 2.

COLOUR & FACT SHEET 3.

COLOUR & FACT SHEET 4.

Worksheet 7

In our production we had a rat as a friend to Oliver. Why not make YOUR OWN RAT.

To make your own rat you will need:
  • Grey card
  • Pink and white pipe cleaners (chenille stem)
  • Googly eyes (or scraps of card)
  • Miniature pink pompom
  • Scraps of pink card or craft foam for the ears
  • Glue
  • Sticky tape
Instructions:

Cut a semi-circle from your grey card, and roll it into a thin cone shape. Glue or sticky tape together.

Cut your white pipe cleaners into lengths and glue to the pointed end of the cone to form whiskers. Then glue on your pompom to form the nose.

At the open end of the cone, glue or tape a length of pink pipe cleaner for the tail.

Add googly eyes and two tiny ears cut from card (see photo below), and you are done!

We hope you have enjoyed our adaptation of Oliver Twist
www.arty-fact.co.uk

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