USER (07Dec04): The Witches by Roald Dahl, adapted by David Wood
A Birmingham Rep and the David Wood Co in association with the Ambassador Theatre Group production.
6 December 2005
The Witches, tells the highly imaginative and very scary tale of a seven year old boy played by grown up Giles Cooper who encounters some ‘real witches’ at a holiday hotel by the coast. The wicked witches plan to exterminate all the children in England by taking over sweet shops, poisoning the children with chocolate and transforming them all into mice. The boy, with his friend Bruno played by Keith Saha and his Gran by Dilys Laye, takes on the witches and the villainess of the tale; the Grand High Witch played by Katerina Jugati, at their AGM and saves the day! This is a magical Roald Dahl story with some larger than life characters and was originally presented on stage back in 1992 and it even made film two years earlier.
Jonathan Church creates a most entertaining production which is fast paced and combines many visual styles from mime to slapstick underpinning it all with perfectly clear dialogue which because of the ‘bite size’ chunks in which it was delivered kept the attention of the youngsters in the audience for the whole play and that is quite something. The sight of two mice trying to climb enormous stairs to get to a giant wrapped chocolate will remain with me for quite some time.
However, I would like to have seen a much more frightening Grand High Witch with greater depth to the character as this would have been a stronger counter balance to the sweetness of the Gran and the innocence of the boys.
The lighting and sound were perfect and the costumes particularly for the mice and frog were delightful, amusing the children in the audience and their parents too. The mice puppets were highly entertaining and at times just didn’t want to go where they were supposed. Luckily, Gran was on hand to help the little chap along and this added to the fun of the night. Designer Simon Higlett well known for the quality of his sets for the Rep provides just the right mix of filmed imagery, grand scenery and lush curtains to make this an ideal touring production and the show does go on tour after Birmingham taking in a West End engagement and UK theatres until the end of June 2005. All in all a very pleasant 1 hour 40 minutes, ideal for families and yes the ‘House Full’ sign could be seen outside the theatre last night so it looks like another success for the Rep.