We all know the story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the loveable flying car which starred alongside Dick van Dyke in the 1968 film. For many of us, that movie was a staple part of our childhood, and its songs and scenes are etched in our memories.
In many ways, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an ideal choice for an amateur production; its story is simplistic yet fun, the songs are catchy and the characters are all standout. Except there's the small problem of having to make a car fly on stage. BLOC Productions didn't hire a car in for their version; rather, they made their own. And it was worth every single second of hard labour.
BLOC Productions might be an amateur company, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is just as polished and perfectly performed as one would expect from a professional show. In fact, it's one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen at the Hippodrome for a while. Craig Rees-Cavendish is delightfully endearing as Caractacus Potts, the doting father who will do anything to keep his children happy. Grace Macdonald plays opposite as Truly Scrumptious, and she played the role perfectly; just sweet enough.
As the Baron and Baroness Bomburst, Ian Taylor and Lizzy Westney were perfect, playing off one another with ease, and their song together, "Chi-Chi Face" was hugely entertaining. Peter Cottell and Alex Milner, as Goran and Boris, respectively- the two spies sent from Vulgaria to bring Chitty back to the Baron- stole every scene they were in. They were a total joy to watch, and gave the audience many laughs.
Alex Turasiewicz, director, brought the show to life beautifully. It was just the right side of frivolous, meaning we still cared very much about the characters and the story, while enjoying many laughs and toe-tapping musical numbers. The quality of the direction covered for a couple of odd lighting choices, as well as several instances of sound imbalance. The band was often far too loud for us to catch the lyrics; a shame when the performers really were giving it their all. However, I can in no way blame BLOC for this; it seems to be a regular occurrence at the Hippodrome nowadays and since the show was such a high standard, it's easy to gloss over these things. A mention too, for the fabulous choreography from Donna Podesta which really lifted such classic songs as "Me Ol' Bamboo," and Macdonald's turn as a dancing doll on a music box was just stunning.
It's Chitty who stole the whole show though; it's really quite unbelievable to think the company have built this car and made it fly. Every time she took to the sky it was magical, and expertly executed, from the mechanics, to the lighting, to the actors' reactions. Overall, a really enjoyable night out, and everyone involved in the show should be incredibly proud of their efforts. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is in Bristol until Saturday, make sure you pay a flying visit.