Based on Charles Dickens' novel, this adaptation traces the childhood of an orphan whose mother dies giving birth to him in an English work-house in the 1820s. Little Oliver Twist, already abused, starved and overworked, is apprenticed to an undertaker and runs away to London after being bullied by an older apprentice. There, he is taken in by Fagin, a fence and thief-trainer, and his gang of pickpockets. He is befriended by Nancy, a good-hearted prostitute, and meets her lover, the brutal housebreaker Bill Sikes. But attempts by the gang to discredit him result in his being taken in by Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy and charitable man, who proves the catalyst for Oliver's discovery of his background and identity. Here Alan Bleasdale's dramatisation differs from Dickens' novel, in that Oliver does not fall into Brownlow's hands by coincidence, and we already know his back story: he's the child of a young woman named Agnes Fleming and her married lover, Edwin Leeford, who dies while on a trip to Rome to claim an inheritance he hopes will permit him to settle enough money on his estranged wife and their adolescent son, then retire somewhere with Agnes and her child. Edwin was married as a very young man to an ambitious older woman to suit both their families; they separated acrimoniously and she took their son, Edward, who was seriously injured in an accident as a child and left with several physical and emotional disorders as a result. Mrs. Leeford and Edward despise each other but she bullies him into helping her with her schemes and eventually he takes them up himself when he needs more money than his father's will permits him. Assuming the name Monks and descending into the London underworld, he contracts Fagin to find and educate Oliver, who can only inherit the Leeford fortune if he is of good character and behaviour. As in the novel, Nancy's affection for Oliver is crucial for him, but costly for her.