Writer: Enid Blyton
Music and Direction: Emma Rice
Reviewer: Julia Beasley
There’s the swot, the bully, the wimp, the joker, the tomboy, the dreamer, and the leader. Adapter and director Emma Rice has been faithful to the original Enid Blyton characters in this gentle morality tale of friendship at a girls’ boarding school.
The premise of Wise Children’s latest musical is that the spirit and culture of Malory Towers is relevant for today’s teens. A motley crew of modern girls is swept back in time to the romantic four-turreted castle in Cornwall, whose aim is to breed ‘women the world can lean on’. But it’s not all hockey sticks and high junks. The girls are forced to deal with bullying in their midst, which they can do only by acting as a team. With the support of the group, each girl is able to confront her own particular character flaw and start to overcome it.
Moving from the safety of the girls’ dormitory to the ramparts of Malory Towers, a death-defying adventure unfolds. The cartwheeling action is performed by an energetic and diverse cast. Look out for Francesca Mills as the bossy but hilarious Sally Hope and Izuka Hoyle as the feisty heroine Darrell Rivers. Excitement is added by clever use of video animation suggesting the outside world, including a storm, a galloping horse and the shadowy figure of the benign headmistress. And there’s a literal cliff-hanger at the end of the first act!
Whilst the bullying at Malory Towers has near-tragic consequences, this is a tale of triumph over tragedy. ‘Long live our appetites and may our shadows never grow less!’ the girls cry in unison, as they defeat evil in their midst. They sing the school hymn unselfconsciously: ‘We are lucky girls to have the chance to grow at Malory Towers’.
The original six-book series of Malory Towers was based on Benenden, the real-life girls’ boarding school that the writer’s own daughter attended. This production certainly isn’t a satire on the public school system or a spoof on Blyton’s storytelling. But whilst fully grown-up people may be less than convinced, fans are bound to love this joyful treatment of a classic girls’ adventure.
Reviewed on 25th July 2019 | Image: Contributed