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Nancy's Age


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#1 Guest_Guest_thecrucible_*_*

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 12:04 PM

There seems to have been a lot of discussion (in various threads, so wasn't sure which to post this in - hence the new thread) about the intended age of Nancy and consequently whether the contestant's best fit the role.

Lots of people have spoken about Dickens writing her at 17 but I thought it was interesting to look at where Lionel Bart places her since it's his interpretation of the role the winning girl will have to play.

Listening to the revival recording (with Jonathan Pryce) it struck me that Nancy has lines of dialogue where she says to Fagin that she was out stealing for him at half Oliver's age and has been at the same trade for 15 years.

Assuming Oliver is about 12, that would make her 6 when she started working for Fagin and suggests an age of 21 at the time of the show's events.

By that reckoning, the younger and older contestants are all of a suitable playing age - Niamh may look slightly young and Jodie slightly old but considering Sally Dexter is clearly well above 21 and played it brilliantly in the revival, at least we know the girls are of a suitable age.

That is, of course, entirely discounting the ability to play such a demanding role at a young age and to fill Drury Lane with both your performance and personality. There, I think some of the younger performers would struggle. (On a slightly unrelated point, I wonder to what extent the performances on TV are really a good indication of such an ability - communicating to a camera and a small studio audience is a big difference from hitting the back of Drury Lane!)

A fairly random point, admittedly, but it caught my attention when I was listening to it.

#2 foxa

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 12:22 PM

I think most of the Nancys I have seen have been over 30, but I like your estimation of her age.  In programmes like this, I suppose the tendency is to go younger rather than older - remember the fuss about the age of one of Josephs? I quickly tried to see if Dickens (rather than Bart) gives any more indication of her age, but couldn't find anything,except she is referred to as a 'girl.'  Here is a description of her and Bet which I found on the Victorian Web:

'They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and healthy. Being remarkably free and easy with their manners, Oliver thought them to be very nice girls indeed. Which there is no doubt they were. '[Oliver Twist, p.62]





#3 Haz

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 12:44 PM

i think nancy's emotional age is probably more important than her biological age.

she may well be late teens/early twenties, but has been through a lot, is streetwise and i think has quite an old head on her shoulders. i think that's where the test will be for the younger contestants, who perhaps don't have as much life experience to draw on.
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#4 JIJane

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 12:53 PM

I spoke about this recently with the man who actually discovered the musical Oliver - as Lionel Bart was his client at the time, hence this person was the first to hear the music and form an opinion on it (alas a good one wink.gif). Consequently, he was then also involved in selling the show the producer who put on the original West End production (after the initial test staging he arranged at the Theatre Royal Stratford) and being a "voice" in the casting process of original WE and folm Nancy. Having known Bart and the show very well, he said that they always saw Nancy at about mid twenties. Georgia Brown was 26 when she was cast as Nancy, and was apparently cast on the spot once she sang a few of the songs at the piano for them. He and Bart decided it was impossible to cast a girl of 17 as noted in the original book, as for a stage version the maturity of voice, acting and life experience would not be sufficient to pull off the role well at that young age. This man also decided to have Shirley Bassey (another client of his) record As long as he needs me (3 semi tones higher than the original key with Bart's blessing), making this a definitive version of the song for many.

"On a slightly unrelated point, I wonder to what extent the performances on TV are really a good indication of such an ability - communicating to a camera and a small studio audience is a big difference from hitting the back of Drury Lane!)"

Absolutely, I always mention this as well, it can be very deceiving as someone who looks good on camera and in a TV studio may not be able to deliver at all on a massive stage - and vice versa.

#5 Oxford Simon

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 01:14 PM

Personally, I prefer an older portrayal.  Someone who has seen life and been through the mill over many years with Bill.

Bill Sykes - again for me - has to be 30s - maybe even older.  Someone who has built his reputation over a number of years and is well-known for it.  A young thug wouldn't have the same fear factor.

Many years ago when I was in the show (ok, we are talking 1981!!), our Nancy was mid 30s and her Bill was younger and it didn't work.  You didn't buy that he was a real brute.

It would be good to see the contestants workshop that relationship with the intended Bill.  That would give us a real flavour for things

#6 Matthew Winn

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 02:31 PM

QUOTE(Haz @ Apr 2 2008, 01:44 PM) View Post
i think nancy's emotional age is probably more important than her biological age.

she may well be late teens/early twenties, but has been through a lot, is streetwise and i think has quite an old head on her shoulders. i think that's where the test will be for the younger contestants, who perhaps don't have as much life experience to draw on.

I agree. We have to remember that we're talking about a society where people started working before they reached ten and where the life expectancy was such that hardly anyone of the working class or lower lived to see fifty. A late-teen of today would come across as far too na´ve and innocent for a character who, at that age, would have been working half her life and who would consider herself luckier than many to reach her mid-thirties.
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#7 Tintin

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 12:02 PM

But does it really matter?  This is just a jolly family musical that bears little resemblance to the Dickens novel and I doubt it any of the viewers will have read the book anyway.




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