As a long-time fan of the Focus on the Family radio series, Adventures in Odyssey, I had high expectations for their radio theatre production of Charles Dickens’s classic,Oliver Twist (Radio Theatre). They did more than meet my expectations; they surely exceeded them. I am hard to please when it comes to adaptations of literature and as a former British literature teacher and a lover of Dickens’s work, I could be particularly critical of an attempt to capture the story of Oliver Twist.
This production, however, is wonderfully engaging, dramatically intense, and so very true to the book itself. Included in this set are 5 audio CDs with about 5-1/2 hours of material, covering what I’m told is more content from the book than most productions include.
A bonus DVD is also included with a look at behind-the-scenes footage and commentary and information on the current foster care system. This wonderfully connects the issues of poverty, social justice and orphan care in Oliver Twist to our modern unsolved social problems. It is so very like Dickens to use story to raise awareness, perhaps even outrage, and to destroy our apathetic blindness to the needs around us.
Many of the actors in this production will have voices familiar to British film and television fans, including actors from Masterpiece Classics and mysteries and some of the British comedies we Americans might catch now on PBS. The acting is superb, the voices wonderfully full of character. This is extraordinarily necessary when performed on radio as Dickens notoriously includes so many characters in his books that it can be hard to remember them all. But with such talented actors, it was easy to recognize the characters along the way and follow every bit of the conversation and action.
Although the length of the CDs might preclude it from much classroom use, it’s a beautiful resource for families, radio theatre lovers, Dickens devotees, homeschoolers and more. It is, however, intense. The story is not explicit, per se, and never inappropriate, but it does encompass child abuse, domestic violence, murder, suicide, and child trafficking. Because my daughters (age 8 and younger) are extremely sensitive, I opted to listen to the CDs myself. This, however, would certainly be a parental choice based on knowledge of your own children.
In addition to all of the entertainment and educational value offered in this set, I am excited that Focus on the Family is using proceeds from the program for its “Wait No More” adoption campaign, focusing on domestic adoption of children out of the American foster care system. Given Dickens’s sense of social justice, this seems particularly fitting.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”