As The Witches at The Rose Theatre in Kingston is aimed firmly at children, I thought I’d take my 10 year old grand-daughter Dixie along and see what she thought of the production and here’s her review: “I’ve never been to this theatre and thought that it was interesting because most theatres are oblong and this one seemed to be a hexagon so everyone was quite close to the stage. Also there was a pit in front of the stage where a lot of children sat on cushions – that was a very good idea. I really enjoyed the show, especially the way the stage was lit. There were also some magic effects that were ok but not that brilliant. All the actors were good and I specially liked the actor who played “Boy” who was funny and did a lot of acrobatics across the stage. I thought it was going to be a bit scary but I wasn’t scared at all and I’m not sure even the younger kids were either. The songs were ok but I really liked it that all the actors played instruments too. All in all, I really enjoyed it and I give it 3*”.
From an adult’s point of view, this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book was a lot of fun but I’m not sure there was enough to captivate adults as well as children; it’s one of those shows you take your children or grandchildren to as an introduction to the theatre and on that level it works really well.
David Wood who did the adaptation has been called “the national children’s dramatist”, having adapted eight of Dahl’s books as well as Olivier Award winning Goodnight Mr Tom and in The Witches he hits all the right notes for the children in the audience who can empathise with “Boy” and his trials and tribulations.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, it’s the story of “Boy “whose parents die in an accident and is brought up by “Grandma” who warns him against witches who you can easily spot as they wear wigs, have claws for fingers, blue spit and square feet with no toes! Unfortunately, on a holiday in Bournemouth, he comes across a meeting of witches where the “Grand High Witch”, turns him and his new friend Bruno into mice. This metamorphosis leads to a bit of a downbeat ending as after drowning the witch in a big saucepan of soup, “Boy” asks “Grandma” how long do mice live? She replies that mice don’t live for very long but as she was old, neither would she and they would die together!
Whilst the children in the audience where having a great time, I had one or two reservations, although the opening song which welcomed the audience and tasked the audience to turn off their mobile phones, was bright and original. The rest of the songs by Dougal Irvine were a little ordinary as were the illusions. On the whole, these were a disappointment as the publicity for the show had featured them heavily. Apart from one or two, they were disguised by dry ice and blackouts which semed to me to be abit of a cop-out but I’m sure the children in the audience were impressed.
As for the cast, they were all excellent with Sarah Ingram as a scary, Transylvanian sounding “Grand High Witch”, and as Dixie said, the notable acrobatics of Fox Jackson-Keen as “Boy”. The instrumental prowess of the actors was very impressive and special mention should go to Justin Wilman who not only played a myriad of roles including that of a witch but also played at least six instruments including piano, clarinet and violin.
The Witches is a good, fun show for children. It’s never going to be another Matilda or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory but it goes to show you can’t go wrong with adapting a Roald Dahl book for the stage. And it does end with a serious message for children of all ages: “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like as long as someone loves you” and who can disagree with that.
Review by Alan Fitter
Roald Dahl’s scariest book is brought to life in a tremendously terrifying treat for the whole family.
Witches absolutely detest children. They find them revolting and are planning to wipe them out like weasels! They want to squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear. But one brave young boy and his grandmother have a plan to get rid of the witches for good… if only they can avoid being turned into mice.
Directed by Curve Artistic Director, Nikolai Foster, The Witches features a hugely talented cast of actor-musicians and mind-boggling illusions that will leave you flabbergasted!
The Witches contains stupendously scary bits and is recommended for children aged 7+ and their brave grown-ups.
Tuesday 29th March – Sunday 10th April 2016