An­other Twist in the Dick­ens mys­tery over Fa­gin’s real iden­tity

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

a Tas­ma­nian con­vict the model for Charles Dick­ens’ time­less vil­lain Fa­gin in the fa­mous novel Oliver Twist? That’s the ques­tion posed – and an­swered, maybe – in The First Fa­gin, shot in Tas­ma­nia and screen­ing in lim­ited re­lease at Kingscliff. A docu-drama with the in­ter­na­tional pres­ence of Harry Pot­ter star Miriam Mar­golyes and ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary di­rec­tor Alan Rosen­thal, its re­lease co­in­cides with the bi­cen­ten­nial year of Dick­ens’ birth. The story of Isaac ‘‘Ikey’’ Solomon is a cap­ti­vat­ing tale of crime, re­demp­tion, courage and, at its heart, love. Con­victed of steal­ing of­fences for a sec­ond time in 1827, Solomon busted out of New­gate Prison and es­caped to the US. Learn­ing of his wife Ann’s trans­porta­tion to Van Diemen’s Land, a lovesick Ikey un­der­took an epic voy­age via Rio de Janeiro to Tas­ma­nia. How­ever, hard-man gov­er­nor Ge­orge Arthur sent Ikey back to Lon­don to face the Old Bai­ley. He was soon on his way back to Tas­ma­nia, this time as a con­vict. It’s dur­ing that trial in Lon­don that Dick­ens, as a young court re­porter, is thought to have come across Solomon. But was he Fa­gin, the de­praved ma­nip­u­la­tor of Lon­don’s slum chil­dren? Mar­golyes’ an­swer is a sur­prise. ‘‘I’m not to­tally con­vinced he was the first Fa­gin be­cause I be­lieve there was an­other (crim­i­nal) who was much more of a pe­dophile. That is the side of Fa­gin that has been slightly glossed over. I’m pre­pared to ac­cept that, for the moment, Ikey Solomon is the best can­di­date,’’ she says. Co-di­rec­tor Rosen­thal says Dick­ens would have at­tended Solomon’s trial and read the ex­ag­ger­ated ac­counts of his story. ‘‘Most of them were the most wild, imag­ined, cre­ative, fic­ti­tious sto­ries,’’ Rosen­thal says. ‘‘But in ‘‘In among th­ese pam­phlets, a num­ber of them say he . . . ran a school for teach­ing boys to steal,’’ Rosen­thal says. ‘‘It’s about 95 per cent cer­tain (Dick­ens) must have at­tended that trial and the events in that trial seem very much to par­al­lel the way Dick­ens wrote about Fa­gin’s trial in Oliver Twist.’’

opens to­day.

Guy Hooper plays Gov­er­nor Arthur in

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