Female Artful Dodger one of many park play Twists

Josie Cerise shown playing Grizelda in The Dukes' production of Cinderella.
Josie Cerise shown playing Grizelda in The Dukes' production of Cinderella.

The Dukes promised a Twist to its summer outdoor production of a Dickens classic story and here’s the first – the Artful Dodger will be a girl.

And playing this popular tearaway will be an actress familiar to Dukes audiences as the Ugly Sister who stole the show at the theatre last Christmas.

Josie Cerise returns to The Dukes just months after her dance routines and outrageous antics in Cinderella made her an audience favourite.

Josie, who hails from near Chorley, has appeared in the West End, at Sydney Opera House and in popular children’s television programmes but never in Lancaster’s beautiful Williamson Park.

However she’ll be in safe hands as all of the creative team – led by Dukes Artistic Director Joe Sumsion – have years of experience of creating theatrical magic outdoors.

And among the seven-strong cast will be a couple of park show veterans too.

Shelley Atkinson appeared in The Dukes 25th anniversary production of Merlin and The Legend of King Arthur in 2011 and returned last year to play a frog and good fairy in Hansel & Gretel. She’s also a familiar face at some of The Dukes Christmas shows. In Oliver Twist she’ll play Mr Brownlow’s housekeeper,Mrs Bedwin and Mrs Sowerberry, the undertaker’s wife.

Her fellow Merlin cast member, Andy Ashford, also returns this year to play Charley Bates, Dodger’s sidekick.

All other members of the Oliver Twist cast will be new to The Dukes walkabout theatre experience.

Jerome Thompson has been cast as the lead character of Oliver Twist; Victoria Brazier will play Nancy and Leigh Symonds appears as Bill Sykes.

The iconic role of Fagin will be taken on by Russell Richardson who was last seen at The Dukes as the father of Fanny Hawthorn in the recent run of Hindle Wakes.

The cast will meet up for the first time when rehearsals begin in just two months.

Oliver Twist opens on July 3 and runs until August 15. For tickets, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or www.dukes-lancaster.org. Book before May 31 and save £2 per ticket.