(A Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the David Wood Company in association with the Ambassador Theatre Group production)

Venue: Birmingham Repertory Theatre
December 2004
Reviewed by
Clive Fuller

The Witches tells the highly imaginative and very scary tale of a seven-year old boy who encounters some 'real witches' at a holiday hotel by the coast.

These wicked witches plan to exterminate all the children in England by taking over sweet shops, poisoning the chocolate and transforming them all into mice.

The boy (played by the grown up Giles Cooper) along with his friend Bruno (Keith Saha) and his Gran (Dilys Laye), takes on the witches and the villainess of the tale, the Grand High Witch (Katerina Jugati) at their AGM and save the day.

This is a magical Roald Dahl story (adapted by David Wood) with some larger than life characters. It was originally presented on stage back in 1992 and even made film two years earlier.

Director Jonathan Church creates a most entertaining production that is fast-paced and combines many visual styles, from mime to slapstick. He underpins it all with perfectly clear dialogue which, because of the 'bite size' chunks in which it is delivered, keeps 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. This would have been a stronger counter balance to the sweetness of the Gran and theinnocence 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 them along and this added to the fun of the night. Designer Simon Higlett is well known for the quality of his sets for the Rep and provides just the right mix of filmed imagery, grand scenery and lush curtains to make this an ideal touring production.

All in all a very pleasant 1 hour 40 minutes, ideal for families. The 'House Full' sign could be seen outside the theatre on the night I attended, so it looks like another success for the Rep.

(c) Clive Fuller 2004.

Stuff to buy:

Bid for Roald Dahl books and
other merchandise on eBay

The Witches (paperback)
By Roald Dahl

The Witches (Puffin Audio Book & Tape Packs)

The Witches [1989] VHS

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin Fiction)

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971) DVD

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [AUDIOBOOK] CD

Forthcoming performances

for further information.