YOUNG Trowbridge actor Georgia Butt was careful to tell friends and family that Fagin?, the show in which she made her professional stage debut last year and has been touring the country with since, was a darkly dramatic production.

She's not wrong, and it had the impact on Saturday's audience Dickens' original publication of Oliver Twist had - shock, deep feelings of pity for his characters and a shamed realisation of general ignorance of the state of others' lives and society.

Gaining impact from being played in the old court room in Trowbridge Town Hall, with the cries of early evening revellers outside evoking the gallows mob baying for blood, the Kick in the Head production tackles three different viewpoints: Fagin's own, murderer Bill Sikes and their victim Nancy.

The detail is based on Dickens' Oliver Twist text, which to people only familiar with the much-loved bright and shiny 60s musical (let's face it, most of us) comes hard. Motherly Nancy is a barely 17-year-old child, brutal Bill turns out to have been so starved of love from birth that not even a heart as big as hers can save him, and Fagin is definitely no lovable rogue.

This was Georgia's night, and she gave a terrific performance, powerful, emotional and capturing the eye. Thoroughly familiar with the role, she made the most of a clever script's passion, pathos and comedy. I'm sure we will see her on stage and screen many times in years to come.

Keith Hill did his best to make you feel sympathy for Fagin, a hard task, while Giles Shenton, who came up with the original idea, is a bit like Sikes' bull terrier Bullseye, obeying his master even when he knows all is not as it should be.

It's a clever device from writer/director Simon Downing to use one of Dickens' techniques from another book to bring this to life, as the ghosts of Fagin's past populate the stage.

A neat piece of writing, it deserves to carry on reaching a wider audience, for sadly our society has not yet changed so drastically that lives like these are a thing of the past.

Alison Phillips