IT’S a fine life for a mighty cast of young actors who are hard at work rehearsing for this year’s Summer Youth Project, the musical Oliver!

Some 150 youngsters have devoted two weeks of their summer holidays to the project - with first-timers as well as seasoned SYP regulars taking the principal roles and joining the large set pieces in the production of Lionel Bart’s ever-popular musical, based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

Directed and choreographed by Maggie Rawlinson, the project is an ambitious undertaking in which the cast will rehearse and perform the play in an intense two-week time frame. This is the story of a poor orphan who grew up in a workhouse and was sold to an undertaker when he had the nerve to ask for more food. This year, the title role is taken by talented newcomer Cory White, a ten-year-old who travels to the Wyvern every day from his home near Chippenham.

“I had no idea I could possibly get the part of Oliver,” he said. When Mum told me, it was on the way back from school. She said, you know that audition? Guess what part you got - the part of Oliver!”

While Cory may be new to the SYP, he already has an impressive performing track record for someone so young. He is a keen ballet dancer and has danced with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in the Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall - as a rat, and a little boy.

He has been training at the Fitzgraham Academy of Dance in Chippenham since he was about six, does gymnastics, golf and diving. For these two weeks. however, it is all Oliver.

“It’s really fun and I am enjoying it,” he said. “All the people are bring kind to me, and I am enjoying learning the dances and learning the loves and getting to know more people, and being able to boost my confidence.”

Cory said he enjoyed being able to listen to the melancholy song, That’s Your Funeral.

“I like all the songs,” he said. “Where is love? is the hardest.”

He watched the film version before starting rehearsals too.

“I really like the film,” he smiled. “But ours will be even better!”

He is joined by 15-year-old Michael Kerr, playing the Artful Dodger - who declared he was “pleased and confused” by his winning of this wonderful role, and Toby Kearney, 17, from Marlborough, who plays the pompous Mr Bumble, in charge of the workhouse.

“It’s a great and challenging part to play, with some amazing songs,” he said. “It’s completely different to what I am like in real life. And he talks quite slowly!”

17-year-old Rhea Thorpe, from Swindon, plays Nancy and says this is her fifth SYP.

“It’s my first principal role. I couldn’t really believe it when I found out. “

She said she was working with a great group of people, and learning about how to build the character: “It’s a lot to do - the songs, the lines, the dances and movements.”

Widow Corney is played by Phoebe Jerman, 19, from Swindon. This is her first venture into the SYP.

“I love it. Everyone is really welcoming, even though I have just come in out of nowhere,” she said.

Archie Fisher, 16, who lives near Marlborough, has the role of Fagin, leader of the gang of London pickpockets. It is his second SYP - he played Cyril in Summer Holiday last year. He said it was a challenge playing an old man.

“It’s hard to get into the physicality. He hunches over. I will have to wear a lot of make-up. But no beard, sadly. And speak with a gravelly voice.”

Archie has acted in Oliver! before - when he was the Artful Dodger in a production at the Watermill Theatre in 2015. Marcellus Hill, 15, is playing arch villain Bill Sykes - and he is delighted. Marcellus, from Swindon, has taken part in previous SYPs.

“I fell off the sofa when I got the news,” he said. “I usually get typecast as the cheeky role, and I wanted to do something completely different. I’ve never played a villain.”

Omolola Funsho plays Dr Grimwig - a change of gender for the character, who is male in the novel. This is the fourth year Omolola has taken part in the SYP. Tom Keen, 16, is Mr Sowerberry, the cold-hearted undertaker.

“Its’ just so fun. I’ve made lots of friends and it’s a really great experience,” he said.

Rob Curnock, 19, from Malmesbury, is Mr Brownlow, and he is a committed SYP member, having attended six projects.

“I haven’t wanted to follow a career in theatre – I’m going into IT,” he said. “But I am a real enthusiast about theatre because it’s really enjoyable.”

Mrs Bedwin, Mr Brownlow’s housekeeper, is played by Estelle Cobbson, 17, from Swindon.

“She’s like a kind of mother to Oliver at the end,” she said. “I did the summer project in 2011 and 2012, and I have always loved it. I love musical theatre, making lots of friends, and I’m loving how busy it is.”

Finally, Molly Scrase has the part of Charlotte Sowerberry. It’s her first venture into the SYP.

“I love drama, and in everything I’ve done, I’ve always met good people.”

The production has not been given a modern interpretation, but will feature the traditional Victorian England, with exciting sets stretching out in to the auditorium, some using scaffolding, and a balcony on stage. Supporting the director are Greg Last, an actor/musician and composer taking on the musical director’s chair, Emily Gara, as assistant choreographer and Emma Barr, as assistant director.

The Summer Youth Project is an established tradition and since 1994 has run every year - with the exception of 2007 when the theatre was closed. The project has proved a nurturing ground for young talent and several its former members have progressed to great things. SYP graduates Dino Fisher-Stephens, Aaron Jenkins and Matt Pigeon have all gone on to perform in the West End. The SYP has done a range of shows, including Bugsy Malone, Hairspray, Grease and - last year - a colourful Summer Holiday based on the 1963 film starring Cliff Richard. Oliver! will be performed on Thursday at 7.30pm, Friday at 4pm and 8pm, and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £14-£15.50. To book, call 01793 524481 or visit