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Christopher Walker reviews The Witches playing at the National Theatre

The Christmas season kicks off with a triumphant spectacular at the National Theatre that knocks your socks off.

Roald Dahl’s Witches delivers what every child adores. Something just frightening enough to tantalise and thrill, without putting them off a good night’s sleep.

This new musical is an extraordinary hit for writers Lucky Kirkwood and Dave Malloy.

The staging is simply spectacular thanks to designer Lizzie Clachon, and the songs and dance routines outstanding.

The plot is intriguing. Everything we’ve ever been taught about witches is wrong.

Cian Eagle-Service (Bruno) and Bertie Caplan (Luke)

They are not the ugly old hags we used to burn at the stake.

Those were innocents. Instead ‘real’ witches live amongst us doing ordinary jobs, and living ordinary lives.

But their dedication to luring children to their death remains. And though they look beautiful and glamorous, it’s all staged.

Bouffant wigs conceal their spotty bald heads, ill-fitting shoes their square-toed hooves, and gloves their gnarled claws.

All wonderful nonsense that had the ten-year-old in front of me bedazzled.

Young Bertie Caplan is superb as Luke who is forced to live with his Norwegian grandmother.

Sally Ann Triplett (Gran)

Totally batty, she smokes cigars and is a witch hunter.

In Sally Ann Triplett’s capable hands you suspect she was probably also at Greenham Common.

When the two escape to the Magnificent Hotel for some sea air, we meet the lunatic manager, Mr Stringer.

A wonderful Daniel Rigby channelling Murray Bartlett, the hotel manager in White Lotus.

Problems come when England’s witches are meeting at the same hotel disguised as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Daniel Rigby (Mr Stringer)

The Grand High Witch appears, a fabulously villainous Katherine Kingsley.

Indeed all the witches and the whole cast are superb. Though naturally the child leads steal the show.

Not just Bertie, but also Jersey Blu Georgia as Helga, and most especially Cian Eagle-Service as Bruno.

His tap dance routine took my breath away.

A great future for all of them is assured, not least as Andrew Lloyd Webber was in the audience. Five stars.

Do go. If you don’t have a child to take, kidnap one.

Website: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/the-witches/

 

 

Picture: Katherine Kingsley (Grand High Witch) in The Witches at the National Theatre. Picture Credits- Marc Brenner

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