If you’ve ever read or watched Roald Dahl’s classic story ‘The Witches’, then you need to watch the play right away. Roald Dahl claims that ‘a witch is the most dangerous thing on earth’, and I vividly recall having nightmares after watching the original film when I was 8-years-old. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was terrified when the Grand High Witch unveils her true form. Despite the fear, I secretly adored the story, making it one of my all-time favourites.
So, I was thrilled to discover that it was being performed at the National theatre.
Written by Lucy Kirkwood and directed by Lyndsey Turner, ‘The Witches’ follows the original story but adds its own unique twists. When 10-year-old Luke tragically loses his parents in a car crash, his long-lost Norwegian grandma (Sally Anne Triplett) becomes his guardian. Not your typical grandma, she loves talking smack, smoking cigars, and hunting witches. However, after a few too many cigars, she has a heart attack, prompting her doctor to insist on a vacation to Bournemouth for both her and Luke.
During their stay, Luke befriends Bruno, a candy-loving, wealthy boy. Bruno’s sweet tooth leads him into a dangerous situation when he asks a witch in disguise for chocolate. Unbeknownst to them, witches are gathering at their hotel for their annual convention, led by the sinister Grand High Witch. She hatches a plan to distribute a magical potion inside of chocolate that turns children into mice.
Witnessing Bruno transform into a mouse from eating poisonous chocolate, Luke is also turned into a mouse when discovered eavesdropping on the witches’ meeting. Now mice, Luke, and Bruno, along with Luke’s grandmother, must navigate the world of witches and devise a plan to stop them from turning all children into mice. They face numerous risky situations as they strive to save other children from the witches’ evil plot.
While ‘The Witches’ is primarily designed for children, I found the play very enjoyable and never felt it was overly childish. In fact, it struck a perfect balance with its witty dialogue, funny songs, and universal appeal.
Lizzie Clachan’s set and costume design were truly impressive. The way the set transformed into various locations, with its bold colours, rotation, and clever details, was not only visually appealing but also showcased her meticulous attention to detail. The set, framed with claws and featuring virtual visuals, added a clever touch to the stage.
“The entire creative team excelled in bringing this classic story to life on the stage”.
Special kudos to lighting designer Bruno Poet for his brilliant use of light, creating both a spooky and exciting atmosphere-It was genius! The entire creative team excelled in bringing this classic story to life on the stage.
What stood out to me in the musical was the fantastic acting. From the wicked witches to the young actors on stage, they all danced, sang, and acted with incredible energy, making the performance a joy to watch.
The actors portraying the witches, initially resembling Stepford wives, skilfully unveiled their gruesome appearance through costume, makeup, and movement. Each actor embraced their witch character perfectly.
While every actor delivered an impressive performance, it was the younger cast that truly impressed me. Both Luke (Vishal Soni) and Bruno (William Skinner) stole the show with their humour, delightful voices, and stage presence. Helga (Asanda Abbie Masike) also shone in her solo performance, showcasing not only a lovely voice but also keeping the entire audience engaged throughout.
The Witches was a great watch from beginning to end. It struck the perfect balance, not too childish for adults and not too scary for children. The blend of humour and horror was perfect and the play took me back to my childhood, evoking laughter, and filling me with pure happiness. ‘The Witches’ is a play for everyone, and I couldn’t recommend it enough!