Oliver Twist proves himself a powerful storyteller in Jali at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In Jali, Oliver Twist tells his story from child refugee fleeing his home country Rwanda, waiting in Malawi to be accepted as a refugee, and eventually making it to Australia where he and his family settled in Ipswich. 

Jali Oliver Twist

Jali is a word used in Western Africa to designate a person who narrates history and stories through singing and music. It is another word for the French term griots, but jali is preferred.


A story so sad and with moments of violence could easily depress audiences, but Oliver’s story telling finds a way of weaving in comedy among the sadness. Oliver Twist is an inspiring story-teller. The audience hung on his every word. We shared in his heartbreak and his joy. We laughed at the humour in the unlikely places. I wanted to rush on stage and give him a hug when he was sharing his disappointments and suffering. 


Jali was held in Adelaide’s Space Theatre where simple lighting showed it had a number of effective uses. Comprised of a single line of stage light bulbs, which change colour (from white, to orange to blue), and which light the whole or parts of the stage depending on the scene. A recurring story that comes up throughout Jali takes place at a lake – the stage is bathed in blue light whenever this story returns. 


The set is simple, consisting of two levels of rectangular blocks, the upper ones with ramps down to the middle. Oliver makes the most of this set standing or sitting on different parts or sides of the blocks. 


His Dad is Hutu and Mum is Tutsi, a difference that he says didn’t exist before Belgian colonisation of Rwanda. Jali is a story about trying to find a place where you’re welcome and that you can call home. Twist’s family weren’t welcome in Malawi either – and he tells of waking in the early hours of the morning to guns pointed at his head aged 12. Hopes of getting refugee status and accepted by Canada were dashed not once, but twice. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is humour to be found in plenty of parts of his story 


Oliver Twist asks the audience “if you had the chance to restart, would you do it differently?”. A show which breaks the usual mould of song based cabaret at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Oliver Twist shows that he is one of the next generation of important, persuasive and convincing storytellers, or Jalis, to follow. 


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Oliver Twist Jali


WHAT: Oliver Twist “Jali”

WHERE: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide

WHEN: Two more shows remain:

Fri 24 Jun 2022, 9:00PM

Sat 25 June 2022, 6:30PM

HOW: Buy your tickets via this link:


HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows (excluding transaction fee):

  • Premium Adult$44.00
  • A Reserve Adult$39.00
  • Under 30$30.00



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