Wickedly fun, The Worst Witch is delightfully (and suitably) magical to keep the audience thoroughly engaged.
Having grown up reading Jill Murphy’s original stories about Mildred Hubble, I’m really pleased to report that this stage adaptation by Emma Reeves retains the fun and chaos of the stories, while the performances of all the cast keep the charm of the characters intact.
The story switches from past to present from when Mildred Hubble accidentally finds herself at a witches academy, having to learn not only how to fit in but also how to not to get into so much trouble – not helped by the tricks pulled by Ethel. It then transforms to the present to see how all of the pupils standing together against an old enemy threatening to bring down the academy.
Directed by Theresa Heskins, The Worst Witch is filled with inventive magic tricks, wonderful imagination (just wait until you see the cats!) and fabulous movement choreography that brings the story so vividly to life it would be hard not to be swept away by it no matter what your age is. Everything including the music that rings out in the auditorium before the show starts (for example Frank Sinatra crooning ‘Witchcraft’ or Queen singing ‘A Kind Of Magic’) has been carefully thought out to offer maximum delight to sweep the audience into the world of magic so effectively.
In particular, Simon Daw’s cleverly constructed set design allows the cast to scamper around with great energy and ease as well as paying tribute to the original illustrations from the books, while Leigh Davies adds some suitably engaging sound effects to enhance the magic happening on stage. But it is the magic itself, supervised by John Bulleid, that really captures the audience’s attention and imagination – including a sequence in which a cast member is fitted into what looks like an impossibly small box.
The only thing perhaps that doesn’t quite work is the use of songs which although energetically performed by the onstage band (including Miss Drill and Miss Bat) feel as though they are disrupting the flow of the story and entertainment factor of the production.
But this shouldn’t distract from the many wonderful performances – not least Rachel Heaton’s suitably sharp and stern Miss Hardbroom, Rosie Abraham’s delightfully snobbish and goody-two-shoes Ethel and Polly Lister’s hilarious turns as Agatha and Miss Cackle (on occasion both at once!). All of the cast provide great energy to their performances that is then magically conveyed to the audience who are enthusiastic with every twist and turn.
Pure magic from start to finish, there is certainly plenty of mischief to delight younger audiences and plenty of magic and humour for older members of the audience to appreciate. It is good fun from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
The Worst Witch will play at the Vaudeville Theatre until the 8th September. To book tickets click here or visit:From the Box Office, Encore Tickets, See Tickets, Last Minute.com, Love Theatre.com and Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk .