top of page

Fagins Last Hour

"A stage adaptation of Oliver Twist might not appear, at first, to be the most relevant topic of interest for enthusiasts of supernatural Gothic film or literature. But this is a Brother Wolf production, and an hour in the riveting presence of actor James Hyland, who delivers the darkest and most chilling adaptation of Dickens’ tale that you can hope to see. Forget the sentimentality of so many screen adaptations of this tale of an orphan’s progress from workhouse to thieves’ den to final safety and prosperity. Oliver Twist himself seems virtually side-lined in this adaptation of the tale, as the villainous miser, Fagin, recounts to us his own take – from a prison cell one hour before his execution. We take our seats in a dimly lit auditorium, a minimal squared off set with just four pillars, scattered straw on the floor to indicate the walls, and a ragged, recumbent figure lying still in a corner. This is Fagin, who, for the next 60 minutes, enacts the events of the story – in alternating bouts of impotent rage, guilt, despair, and finally fear of the fate which awaits him. I didn’t expect to feel any empathy with the character, but such is the power and complexity of James Hyland’s performance, that it is impossible not to: when he rails against the social injustice of being born a poor man in a rich, capitalist city, who somehow has to survive, and especially at his mounting terror as the hangman’s noose approaches. The sheer energy and physicality of Hyland on stage (as anyone who has seen Dracula’s Guest will testify) is extraordinary. At times pacing the stage like a caged animal, the actor assumes the identity of each of the characters in turn – Oliver, the Artful Dodger, the Magistrate, Bill Sykes, Nancy, and even Bullseye, Sykes’ faithful dog. He does this seamlessly, with merely a shift in voice, mannerism, and body language – Nancy’s cocked head and arched eyebrow is sublime! – to convince us totally of who is speaking. (The moment when he drops onto all fours and suddenly bounds towards us with a few short barks is startling – and over in seconds!) This is spell-binding theatre. We know what is coming: the staging of Nancy’s death is horrific and shocking, and the final action – indicated with clever lighting offstage – leaves the audience feeling emotionally raw. Fagin’s Last Hour is one of Brother Wolf’s most highly-acclaimed touring productions. If you haven’t yet seen it, then check the website for future dates, and try to catch it at a theatre near you. The show will linger long after you leave – especially if you choose to sit in the front row…."

~Julia Kruk, VOICES FROM THE VAULTS

Original Source: Download Here

 

"Actor James Hyland of Brother Wolf produced and performed a darkly captivating performance based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens... The audience takes their seat in a dimly lit room, as a figure lies still on the floor. It is Fagin the miser, from Oliver Twist, in his cell just one hour before his execution. This unique concept examines a famous villain from a new perspective, considering the concepts of fear, humanity, and anger at society. It seems impossible to humanise a villain as notorious as Fagin, and yet this is exactly what Fagin's Last Hour achieves. Fagin's anger and ramblings exposes some thought-provoking questions: what would his fate have been, if only he'd been born into high society? Do those left to fend for themselves deserve punishment for simply trying to survive? Of course, Fagin's actions cannot be brushed off, but his anger stems from a very real issue, which James Hyland brings to light. As he retells the story that led him to the prison cell, he argues that most men are thieves in some way, and that in a capitalist society, his fate as a poor man in a rich city had already been sealed. It was not only the message of the play that was powerful and cleverly executed; the acting brought the play to life in a darkly fascinating way. James Hyland has a powerful ability to portray numerous characters, bringing each one to life through voice and physicality. Nancy, Bill Sykes, and Artful Dodger are all observed through the eyes and body of Fagin, though at times it felt like they were truly in the room. When one actor can emulate an entire cast, that is a powerful thing! His staging of Nancy's murder by Bill Sykes was bone-chilling, and evoked emotions in the audience in a way that often even TV and cinema cannot, despite their use of special effects. His acting was raw, honest, and profound. This was a brilliantly executed re-imagining of Charles Dickens's tale, shining a spotlight on a single villain, and giving him a dark but honest story of his own."

Rating: ★★★★★

~Kashmini Shah, VOICE MAGAZINE

Original Source: https://www.voicemag.uk/review/12125/fagin-s-last-hour-by-james-hyland

 

"It is a fabulous one man show. James Hyland as Fagin brings to life the Dickensian villain spectacularly... We are sat riveted to every word as he moves around the delineated prison cell like a caged animal. Using dramatic gestures, depth and tone of voice he transforms before our very eyes into multiple characters... Hyland masterfully switches between each character with such ease that the audience hardly notices it. Without even a word, but just a signature pose the audience knows exactly who is in the room at any given time... This is a riveting performance that will linger for much longer than an hour!"

~Rika Chandra, EVERYTHING THEATRE

Original Source: https://everything-theatre.co.uk/2023/01/review-fagins-last-hour-white-bear-theatre

"Dressed in rags and smeared with dirt Hyland brought to vivid life the events that led to Fagin’s incarceration. Alternately raving, wheedling and pleading this Fagin owes a tiny bit to that of Alec Guinness from David Lean’s classic movie, but with his sheer physical presence Hyland’s Fagin is more than just the devious and pathetic wretch we are so familiar with, he’s also dangerously threatening. In this all consuming performance Hyland’s Fagin also enacts the roles of Oliver Twist, Bill Sykes, the Artful Dodger, Nancy and even that of Bullseye, the burglar’s attack dog completely gripping the audience with such intensity that he must have terrified those individuals brave or foolhardy enough to sit the front row! Intense, provocative and often downright scary"

Rating: ★★★★★

~Simon Ball, SIMON'S HORRIBLE HOTHOUSE OF HORROR

Original Source: https://simonshorriblehothouseofhorror.wordpress.com/2023/01/19/fagins-last-hour-at-the-white-bear-theatre-17-january

"compelling throughout. Hyland’s presentation exploits his vocal range... and his extreme athleticism. (He changes from Fagin into a barking dog bounding across the floor, and back again, all in a matter of seconds.) To borrow and amend T.S. Eliot’s working title for The Waste Land, ‘he do all the parts in different voices’. And each character is given a different physical stance and shape. He has an uncanny ability to convince every member of an audience seated on two adjacent sides of a square auditorium that he is addressing them personally... do try to see his performance. You won’t forget it"

Rating: ★★★★★

~Tom Aitken, PLAYS TO SEE

Original Source: Download Here

"James Hyland skillfully portrays a multitude of characters... The minimal set and tech allowed for full focus on the performer, who seamlessly swapped between narratives and kept the audience engaged for the full hour. It was funny, thought provoking and upsetting... a spectacular performance... He is one of the most impressive physical performers I have seen... don’t miss it!!"

Rating: ★★★★★

~Becky Jeetoo, BECKY'S OPINION

Original Source: https://sometheatrereviews.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/fagins-last-hour

"From the time you sit down ready to watch this splendid play, you are entertained from beginning to end. James Hyland’s excellent change of character to another demonstrates how truly explosive this play is. A real gem, a masterpiece. A classic story bought to life for all to enjoy. You are without doubt in the presence of greatness. Loved it."

Rating: ★★★★★

~Johnnie Millington, BRITISH THEATRE JOURNAL

"an incredibly powerful actor... this is a visceral, absorbing and at times disturbingly violent retelling of this well-known tale performed by an actor at the top of his game. But it's not just Fagin he plays. With just a twist of his shoulders, he becomes many of the other characters in the story and with his powerful stage presence draws you into their world. On a minimalistic set and with no props or costume change, Hyland embodies every character from Fagin through to Bill Sykes, the Artful Dodger and Nancy as he tells Fagin’s story... gripping, absorbing and shocking in equal measure. This production is not for the faint hearted; Hyland pulls no punches in the retelling of this horror story and leaves no detail out of the subsequent and inevitable death of Nancy. But if you want Dickens as it is meant to be, warts and all, and you want a masterclass in character acting, then this show is a must-see."

~Suzanne Hawkes, BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

Original Source: https://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/fagin-s-last-ho-two-sisters-art-19554

"Superb performance. Some story lines, such as Nancy's murder in the presence of Fagin, were modified to keep Fagin front and centre. The portrayals of Fagin, Dodger, Sikes and Bullseye were masterful. The death of Nancy was horrendous, hard to watch but effective. I believe that when Dickens did his readings concerning the death of Nancy people were known to faint!"

Rating: ★★★★★

~Ken and Mandy Green, THE AUDIENCE CLUB

Original Source: Download Here

"A powerful one-man show... Not only does James Hyland take on the character of Fagin, he also adapted and produced the play, and has a fondness for Dickens having also adapted A Christmas Carol. You could see the passion coming across in his acting and he has a very powerful presence on the stage as he brings to life the characters of Nancy, Bill Sykes, Artful Dodger, Oliver Twist and the Magistrate as he tells his tale as Fagin. The way he moves, his mannerisms, the voice and stance he takes throughout showcases each character really well and gives life to them, each without worry of you getting lost during the performance. The performance lasts for an hour and in that time James really brought life to the story. I felt like if I was to read the book I would be able to align his performance with it. I would recommend the piece to anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare and should satisfy anyone who enjoys a darker, more powerful piece of theatre."

~Tanya Howard, THE LIVE REVIEW

Original Source: https://thelivereview.co.uk/fagins-last-hour-new-wimbledon-theatre/

 

"It has to be said that James Hyland is a brilliant storyteller. The show may be called Fagin's Last Hour but we're treated to appearances from Oliver, The Artful Dodger, Bill Sykes, Nancy and even Sykes' faithful dog, Bullseye, and yet believe it or not this is a one-man show. With just a turn of the shoulder James can transform effortlessly between the characters... you know exactly who he's meant to be portraying at any given moment. Each characterisation was simply perfect and it’s not hard to see why his Fagin is critically acclaimed... Fagin's Last Hour is another interesting and thought provoking production from Brother Wolf which will leave you questioning the world around you. These productions are certainly more than just entertainment as they have a fantastic way of taking some of history's darkest hours and forcing you to question whether or not these issues are still hiding deep within our society."

~Chloe Fry, CENTRE STAGE

Original Source: https://cfrycentrestage.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/review-fagins-last-hour

"Dickens described Fagin in the condemned cell as hurrying to and fro in 'a paroxysm of fear and wrath'. As the hour expires, this mixture of impotent rage against those who have brought him to this sorry pass, and abject dread of the fate inexorably approaching, is powerfully portrayed. At one moment Fagin is defiantly demanding to know 'what right have they to butcher me?' - whilst at another he is scurrying around the confines of his cell like a caged and terrified animal. Mr Hyland succeeds in presenting Fagin as a complex human being"

~Paul Graham, THE DICKENSIAN

Original Source: Download Here

 

"Produced and performed by James Hyland, Fagin's Last Hour is an amazing and engaging retelling of Oliver Twist from Fagin’s perspective. Hyland gives an incredible performance bursting with energy: his impressive vocals and performance conjure up Fagin who is menacing but also a venerable frightened and desperate man. The audience also meets the quiet and shy Oliver, a nimble and confident Artful Dodger, a dark, frightening and violent Bill Sikes as well as a warm-hearted and confident Nancy and even Bulls Eye the dog. Spell binding. He shifts roles with ease, keeping the dramatic tension and the play flowing. The set, costume and make up are excellent, evoking the eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere of a prison cell holding a desperate and frightened Fagin."

~Laura Child, BIGGIN HILL NEWS

Original Source: Download Here

 

"James Hyland’s characterisation is absolutely flawless; while the majority of the play focuses on the title character, Hyland also assumes other personas - Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger, Nancy, the judge, and even Bulls-eye, Sikes’ dog - throughout the play, as a storytelling technique. It is immediately obvious which persona Hyland has adopted at any given time in the play; he is able to change his stance, voice, actions and mannerisms. It did not take me long to suspend my disbelief, I almost forgot that it was one actor on stage as the transition between Hyland’s personas was so immaculate. Something which was also thoroughly impressive was Hyland’s ability to bring in more dimensions for already well-established characters. Hyland even managed to make the story’s villain, Bill Sikes, more human, and even pitiable... The ending, while deeply unsettling and unpleasant to witness, was immensely effective. The final action, while it happens offstage, is unambiguous. The audience sat stunned into silence for several moments. before Hyland re-emerged on stage, to a standing ovation."

~Catherine Barkley, ROSS GAZETTE

Original Source: Download Here

 

"The audience was silent, tense, completely immersed in Hyland’s visceral, intensely physically demanding performance and his incredible vocal range. Shifting roles with frightening ease, Hyland encapsulated Bill Sikes, Nancy, Dodger and the Judge; even Sikes’ dog, Bullseye, made a cameo! The meaning I took from the play, which stayed with me a long while after, was provocative and complex... one of the most haunting moments of theatre I have experienced for a long time."

~Harriet Coleman (Education and Participation Administrator), FOCUS

Original Source: Download Here

 

"Operating in only a small squared-off area of the stage, which served as his prison cell, James Hyland put on a powerful and animated performance primarily as Fagin the Miser one hour before his execution — along with the multiple characters he encounters, including Bill Sikes, Nancy, and even Bullseye the dog. James held a captive audience in the intimate settings of Stiwdio Stepni — and displayed a great talent of making audience members feel the show was being performed to them personally. He did a great job of portraying the regret of the character so close to his demise, running over the horror of what he had seen and the dread of what was to come. The show, completely stripped back of any props or elaborate measures, proved what can be achieved purely from a top quality acting performance. It was a memorable show from a skilful storyteller."

~Robert Dalling, LLANELLI STAR

Original Source: Download Here

"If you thought you knew Oliver Twist then think again as James Hyland’s breathtaking adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel took the story to new and darker places. Hyland himself puts in another powerful, thought provoking and faultless performance as he brings every character to life with effortless ease and emotion which drags the audience into events on stage... Using Fagin as the sole storyteller is inspired as it offers a different viewpoint... This may be a million miles from the much-loved musical version, but Fagin’s Last Hour captures the true spirit and message of Dickens in a way a filmmaker never could."

~Ian Dipple, REDDITCH STANDARD

Original Source: Download Here

 

"in this powerful and highly accomplished piece of Berkoffian physical theatre... the immensely talented James Hyland unfolds Fagin’s unappealing story and memories... The death of Nancy, and the reaction of Sikes and Fagin to it, is as chilling as anything I’ve seen onstage... The real strength of the piece lies in the way Hyland, despite everything his character has told us, manages to evoke human sympathy for a man about to face the horror of hanging... The ending, after Hyland has left the stage, will stay with me for a long time."

~Susan Elkin, THE STAGE

Original Source: Download Here

"My son is fifteen years old. He sees all theatre as something rather alien to his teenage mind. It's not cool. Yet I somehow persuaded him to come to The Civic on Friday December 4th to see Brother Wolf's production of 'Fagin's Last Hour'. He was quiet all the way through, transfixed by the one actor on stage. At the very end, he turned to me and said in all seriousness, "That was awesome!" - high praise indeed from a teenager! He was right though: it was... [James Hyland] played every part, changing perspective, voice and mannerisms to suit the different characters: Fagin, Oliver, Dodger, Bill Sykes, Nancy, the Judge, even Bill's dog at one point.  He kept the whole audience focused... For one man to hold an audience in his hand for a full hour was masterful, a real achievement. In my son's words, "Awesome!""

~Steve Dobson, PENISTONE FM

Original Source: Listen Here

"Hyland has a very commanding stage presence and convincingly plays a number of the main characters from the action: Bill Sikes, Nancy, Artful Dodger and Magistrate. At one point, he even adopts the persona of Sikes’s dog, Bullseye. All this is achieved through voice, mannerism, stance and movement and expertly conveys the relationship between them all... Hyland treats us to a tour-de-force in which he manages to convey the essence of the novel in a skilful and entertaining way... His characterisations are always consistent with each other and it is a testimony to his expertise that by the end you feel there have been five actors on the stage... Recommended."

~Ray Taylor, THE REVIEWS HUB

Original Source: Download Here

 

"Astonishing performance... James Hyland, an astonishing actor, takes the peripheral character of Fagin and re-imagines his last hour as he awaits the gallows, bringing the other characters to life through his eyes... Hyland’s use of voice and stance to indicate which of the many characters he is representing is amazing and the energy and concentration he brings is truly astonishing... this was unforgettable theatre at its best."

~Jane Howard, LEAMINGTON COURIER

Original Source: Download Here

"In this one-man show, Fagin is brought vividly and chillingly to life by James Hyland. His costuming and make-up are pitched perfectly, depicting the social standing of this shady character with faultless attention to detail. Through immaculately stylised movements, Hyland morphs into the other characters in the story, and with nothing but his masterful physicality and excellent vocal flexibility each of the roles takes individual shape in the enrapt minds of the audience. Captivating to the point of inducing complete silence throughout the auditorium, Hyland is an exquisitely skilful storyteller."

~Laura Kathryn Bennett, BEHIND THE FOOTLIGHTS

Original Source: http://behindthefootlights.blogspot.com/2012/10/fagins-last-hour.html

 

"Chilling and extraordinary... it was played very strongly by James. A disturbing subject, his work was highly concentrated to portray this characterisation of Fagin.... he just switched characters so easily as he played out the story. It was clever and intense. The audience didn't make a sound and sat motionless, and it was an alarming subject but only a true actor could make it believable and convincing. Like many of our most talented actors, musicians and writers and creative people, we don't hear or see enough of the likes of James."

~Bridget Metcalfe, BBC RADIO ESSEX

Original Source: Listen Here

 

"The simple set is four short metal pillars to indicate the corners of the prison cell and scattered straw lines for the walls. This is surprisingly effective as, when Fagin does finally step from the cell, it was a nervous moment in the audience. I had not been aware of how reassuring a barrier the straw line was until it was broken. Hyland put in a powerhouse performance throughout and did not lose character for a second. Primarily Fagin, he also morphs into the other characters including, briefly but memorably, Bull's-eye... Sikes is so scary. It is easy to picture the imagined Oliver quaking.... The energy that Hyland drew upon for this very physical performance was incredible to see and I enjoyed his intelligent discussion of the work after the interval. I will definitely be booking for his next project!"

~Stephanie Burton, THEATRICAL EASTBOURNE

 

"a gripping adaptation... It depicts Fagin pacing around his cell, mind unravelling in his last hour of life before being executed... Hyland lays bare Fagin's character in all his complexities... The adaptation is highly engaging, with Hyland giving an intense performance as Fagin, a man in visible agony as he replays the build-up to his arrest. Hyland's intricate subtleties in body language are impressive, faultlessly switching between characters in Fagin's recollections. You really do feel like you are watching a man pushed to the edge, as he cycles through remorse, guilt, anger and fear with tension rising to a very powerful ending."

~David West, THE RELIANT

 

"full of excitement, suspense and grief... The actor, James Hyland, who wrote, produced and acted as Fagin was superb. Full of multi-role playing, there was complete conviction in every single character he portrayed, from the lapel-holding excitable Artful Dodger, to the headstrong, feisty Nancy, her brow incredulously cocked, hand on hip. There was never a doubt as to which character he was playing; each had their own idiosyncratic mannerisms and Cockney accents. At one particularly impressive point, Hyland dropped to the floor with a bang, before playing the part of Bill Sikes’ dog, Bull’s-eye. He barked convincingly, bounding forwards as any threatened dog would, and the audience was captivated... Fagin’s Last Hour was incredibly enjoyable, designed to make the audience sympathise with the villain, for once."

~Nisha Vaidya, REDBRICK

 

"unique and entertaining... a fantastic show... James Hyland brought Fagin into the spotlight showing regret, surprisingly some compassion and also agony as Fagin reflected on his fate, along with his clever portrayal of Nancy, the Artful Dodger and Bill Sikes."

~Naomi Hand, THE CITY SCENE

Original Source: https://issuu.com/the_scene_magazine/docs/city_scene_july_2012/20

 

"I have been a fan of James Hyland (actor/writer/producer) since seeing his superb one man show 'A Christmas Carol - As told by Jacob Marley (deceased)'. 'Fagin's Last Hour' is an amazing retelling of 'Oliver Twist' from the point of view of Fagin. Hyland gives an incredibly energetic performance and conjours up Fagin, Oliver, The Artful Dodger, Bill Sikes and Nancy. That a man with a full beard is utterly convincing as a woman tells you what a great atmosphere Hyland creates. Spell binding. He shifts roles with alarming ease, keeping the dramatic tension and the play flowing. The set, costume and make up are excellent. Dickens sadly seems very relevant today, with the squalor and division of Victorian Britain re-emerging. Now at last someone (Hyland) has persuaded me to read Oliver Twist."

~CARACATUS

 

"this gripping adaption is a demonstration of consummate storytelling and enthralling acting talent. A world away from the cheery musical that we all know so well. Hyland recounts the twists, turns and characters that have conspired to bring him face to face with his imminent execution. The snivelling, self-pitying ducker and diver evokes contempt and pity in equal measure as he takes on the persona of Jack Dawkins (the Artful Dodger), Nancy, and of course the odious antagonist Sikes. As the tension builds Fagin’s foreboding is palpable. The ending is as thought provoking and as hard hitting as any. If you ever get the chance to see this performance it will stay with you for a long, long time. Hyland stayed behind for a question and answer session. He explained the intricacies surrounding his absorption into the different characters and the challenges of the script... a most engaging evening was had by all... such an unforgettable production."

~thestuartthomasblog

Original Source: https://thestuartthomasblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/fagins-last-hour/

"James Hyland changes between the different characters in a split second... Skilfully directed by Phil Lowe, Fagin's Last Hour is a character study performed by an excellent James Hyland... A production well worth seeing."

~Carolin Kopplin, UK THEATRE NETWORK

 

"James Hyland's performance is bursting with energy... impressive vocal dexterity... a very impressive performance... Hyland deftly switches from one character to another with precision and boundless energy. A nimble, confident Dodger, a warm-hearted and bolshie Nancy and a Sikes bristling with barely repressed violence all appear before our eyes... James Hyland really comes into his own showing us a ruined man - desperate and frightened, by turn raving and whimpering, capturing Fagin's disturbing menace and vulnerability... hugely engaging"

~Beth Eyre, REMOTEGOAT

"All characters are played by James Hyland, the show's sole performer... His speech while as Fagin, Bill and all the others is a delight. The variations in pitch, volume, speed, tenor, and every other quality creates most of the piece's audio experience... This is an energetic, interesting, and vigorous performance... Hyland's absorbing and bold performance and portrayal of the man results in a piece of theatre that easily holds every wisp of attention available in the room."
~Karl O'Doherty, THE REVIEWS HUB 

"a gripping dramatic tour de force by JAMES HYLAND... not only does he create a vivid and memorable portrayal of Fagin himself but also Fagin impersonating other characters... Hyland wonderfully changes his physicality in playing each role whilst maintaining his vocal characterization as Fagin... Hyland is not only powerful but also genuinely terrifying... electrifying and horrific... Hyland vividly captures the real terror of the last moments of the condemned man and Dickens would surely applaud this himself... a compelling piece of drama that serves the novel well... a visceral performance and not to be missed" 

~Neil Zoladkiewicz, THE DICKENS FELLOWSHIP (LDN)

 

"James Hyland presents another spellbinding show... Hyland plays all of the characters skillfully and convincingly giving, as Dickens undoubtedly intended, a glimpse into the nineteenth century criminal underworld... This new and original approach to Dickens will appeal to scholars and the uninitiated alike and could even lead to a revival of interest in the author... Being an inveterate showman himself, Charles Dickens would thoroughly approve."

~Graham Smith, THE DICKENS FELLOWSHIP (YKS)

bottom of page