Writer: Roald Dahl
Adaptor: David Wood
Director: Nikolai Foster
Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin
Roald Dahl, the master of children’s storytelling, has constructed a fantastic story revolving around a sect of children-hating evil witches who have blended in with normal society and are found out by our story’s hero, Boy. David Wood’s adaptation is faithful to the book, most obviously that there’s no fairytale happy ending as in the 1990 film version.
This production is a whirling dervish of energy, storytelling, characterisation, colour and light, which sweeps the audience along regardless of whether they are four years old or 84 years old. The set design by Isla Shaw is fabulous and imaginative, allowing for magical moments, transforming into different settings, and hiding musical instruments and props in plain sight.
This adaptation is a non-traditional musical, with songs and accompanying jazzy music composed by Dougal Irvine. The small cast of seven is incredibly talented actor-musicians, effortlessly playing every instrument within reach and make a fantastic start to the show; with sungwarning to turn of phones and to be prepared to be scared.
The overall style of the production is grotesquely glorious; the witches are darkly funny, wearing hideous wigs while in their natural state, scratching themselves against every surface, gleefully gurning at the audience. Elexi Walker is a comedic highlight, both as her hideous witch and as her overly Scouse Mrs Jenkins. Sarah Ingham as Grand High Witch is terrifying, perfectly timed in her delivery – an Eastern European dominatrix witch, and yet sniggeringly funny. Fox Jackson-Keen gives a perfectly pitched performance as Boy, leading the audience through the story and displaying some impressive gymnastic and movement skills along the way.
This show is captivating, energetic and worth watching. The packed audience in Liverpool were enjoying it and as one child stated: “It’s really, really good. Even the scary bits!”
Runs until 19 March 2016 | Image: Catherine Ashmore