Created by: Charles Dickens
Directed by: Renny Rye
Written by: Alan Bleasdale
Other cast: Julie Walters, Michael Kitchen, Marc Warren, Keira Knightley, Robert Lindsay, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher
Original airdate: 19 December 1999 (UK)
Running time: 386 min
The young orphan Oliver Twist flees a cruel workhouse for the dirty streets of London, where he falls in with a nefarious gang. As the shrewd Artful Dodger, the menacing Fagin and the vicious Bill Sikes lead Oliver deeper into a criminal life, a dark conspiracy is revealed around him. Readers have been fascinated and shocked by Dickens's tale of life on the mean streets of London ever since the story was first published in 1837.
Based on Charles Dickens’ novel, this adaptation traces the childhood of an orphan whose mother dies giving birth to him in an English work-house in the 1820s. Little Oliver Twist, already abused, starved and overworked, is apprenticed to an undertaker and runs away to London after being bullied by an older apprentice. There, he is taken in by Fagin, a fence and thief-trainer, and his gang of pickpockets. He is befriended by Nancy, a good-hearted prostitute, and meets her lover, the brutal housebreaker Bill Sikes. But attempts by the gang to discredit him result in his being taken in by Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy and charitable man, who proves the catalyst for Oliver’s discovery of his background and identity. Here Alan Bleasdale’s dramatisation differs from Dickens’ novel, in that Oliver does not fall into Brownlow’s hands by coincidence, and we already know his back story: he’s the child of a young woman named Agnes Fleming and her married lover…
Sophia plays Agnes Fleming, the birth mother of Oliver Twist. Agnes falls in love with Edwin Leeford – a close friend of her father’s – and becomes pregnant by him. She flees her family, clutching only the locket given to her by Leeford, and eventually arrives at the seaside town where she gives birth to Oliver in the workhouse. She dies without giving her name.
Won the TRIC Award for TV Drama Programme of the Year in 2000
Quotes from Sophia
“The story of Agnes is totally heart-breaking. I turned over the first page of the script, and I was in floods of tears. I had no idea what was in store because in the novel, Agnes just gives birth, kisses the child and promptly dies. But in Bleasdale’s dramatization, there’s this absolutely beautiful and tragic love story between Agnes and Edwin. She is hopelessly in love with him, but she cannot understand why he doesn’t marry her.”
“She is a victim of her time as in those days an unmarried mother was just doomed. It is testimony to her great strength of character that she leaves her comfortable home and stable family, to head off into the unknown, carrying a baby and having no money. It is heart-breaking stuff, but not sentimental.”