The Witches - Rose Theatre Review

Roald Dahl is a writer that children should grow up with. I can remember my mother reading me every single book he wrote when I was young. Not only does he create fantastic stories that tantalise the imagination, but he has strong, powerful messages running through them. So in today’s society of children growing up with iPads and mobile phones, will they still be stirred by this kind of storytelling?

The Witches tells the story of the Boy (Fox Jackson-Keen) who goes to live with his Grandma (Karen Mann) after his parents die in a tragic car accident. It is Grandma that feeds his imagination by telling him all about Witches and how to spot them - they often wear gloves because of their long fingernails, they have no toes and tremendous nostrils for sniffing out disgusting, little children! It’s not until the Boy and his Grandma go on holiday and stumble upon the Witches Annual General Meeting that he finally sees for himself! Witches ARE real, and he soon feels their true power after he is turned into a mouse!

This visually compelling production at the Rose Theatre Kingston not only triumphed to invoke the imaginations of the children, but with the grown-ups as well. I think every adult in that room was transported to their inner child on the night that I attended! The bright, colourful set, the cacophony of instrumental talents and the characterisation from the actors are what made this production particularly spectacular.

Speaking of spectacular, I cannot write another word without expressing my utmost adoration for Sarah Ingram who plays the iconic Grand High Witch. She creates the perfect balance of menacing terror and side-splitting humour. I found myself laughing hysterically at her extreme vocality one minute and hiding behind my notebook the next. The detail in her characterisation and her wonderful, classically trained singing voice are what truly makes her the star of this show.

Having said that, every actor in this production had a moment of brilliance. Whether it was Elexi Walker’s hysterically physical Mrs Jenkins, or Fox Jackson-Keen’s backflipping across the stage, every single actor breathed life and magic into this story. One of my favourite elements of this production was how everyone would appear on stage with a new musical instrument to play! I have never seen anyone pick up so many different instruments as Justin Wilman! Not only was he a tremendously funny character as Mr Jenkins and occasionally one of the witches, he provided (along with the rest of this talented cast) the atmosphere and ambience for the audience to enjoy.

What struck me as particularly poignant in David Wood’s adaptation of this story was how the ending was not a happy ever after. The Boy soon registers his fate and asks his Grandma the question “How long does a mouse live?” It is the realisation that his own Grandma won’t last much longer either that we find ourselves emotionally moved and left wanting more. The 1990 film version tweaked their ending to create a rounded conclusion and in my opinion, Wood’s faithfulness to Roald Dahl’s original text hit the painful message of this story: “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, as long as somebody loves you.”

The Witches runs at the Rose Theatre Kingston until 10th April and I would recommend taking your disgusting, smelly children along for a night of fun, laughter and storytelling that will definitely distract them from their gadgets... For an evening at least.

(c) 2016 Molly Miller

DATE SEEN 30/3/16
VENUE Rose Theatre, Kingston
RUN DATES 29th March - 10th April
DURATION 1 hour 35 minutes
Sarah Ingram - Grand High Witch
Fox Jackson-Keen - Boy
Karen Mann - Grandma
Sioned Saunders - Witch
Kieran Urquhart - Bruno
Elexi Walker - Mrs Jenkins
Justin Wilman - Mr Jenkins

Written by - Roald Dahl
Adapted for stage by - David Wood
Director - Nickolai Foster
Designer - Isla Shaw
Lighting Designer - David Phillips
Sound Designer - Sebastian Frost
Composer - Dougal Irvine
Magic Consultant - Neil Henry
Movement Director - Mel Knott


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