From the scene of Aleya Twist

The British Council Cultural Centre, in partnership with Komola Collective, organised the theatre production Aleya Twist, supported by the English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE) Clubs of Tangail & BRAC.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is hailed as the first English novel that examined society’s mistreatment of its orphans and underprivileged children.

We had embarked upon this project to explore the celebrated English novel set in the context of present-day Bangladesh. The characters of this retelling emerge in a setting nearly two hundred years after and many thousands of miles away from the original story. However, the difference in time and place have not eased the harsh reality that the original Oliver had to face.

In our version, the protagonist, Aleya, is a girl who is expelled from the orphanage and sent to work as a domestic servant. She is only ten years old. A happy, innocent child, she tries to enjoy household jobs and to settle into her new home as a lowly servant girl. But she faces cruelty and mistreatment at the hands of her employers and finally runs away. Not knowing where to go, Aleya is brought to Dhaka city by a boy who turns out to be one of a gang of pickpockets and thieves and is trained by a wicked man. She is forced to steal but never considers herself to be a thief. Aleya’s thirst for life is irresistible. She meets every predicament with hope and, like Oliver Twist, miraculously turns it better with love and dignity. Ritu who played Aleya said, “It was a privilege for me to play the role of Aleya. This was truly a learning opportunity for me. I had never thought I will be playing such an important role in front of a huge audience.”

This play was adapted by Leesa Gazi and directed by Filiz Ozcan, they are both Joint Artistic Directors of Komola Collective. The entire cast and crew were recruited from local theatre groups and the young actors were recruited through our EDGE clubs in Tangail. The whole team worked in Madhupur, Tangail for rehearsal and their first show. This three-week project ended with three theatre shows including one at the British Council auditorium and another at the Shilpakala Academy. The shows attracted a huge number of audiences and they were mesmerized to experience such a unique initiative.

The British Council enables social change through the arts by retelling this classic tale, focusing primarily on vulnerable communities. We are delighted to have the opportunity to create a play with the EDGE girls and professional actors in partnership with Komola Collective.