The Witches @ West Yorkshire Playhouse

By December 3, 2016

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.


Photograph credited to Anthony Robling

The Witches is a classic tale by Roald Dahl about a group of evil, secret witches who plan to eradicate all children with their new magic formula. A brave Boy, with the help of his grandmother, must save the children of England from the Grand High Witch.

It’s a great tale for children, but one for the whole family to enjoy, and I think that’s the vibe A Curve and Rose Theatre Kingston (in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse) set out to create.

The roles are played by just seven incredibly talented and versatile cast members, who are also strong musicians. It’s lovely to see such a tight group of people work in tandem like they’re all part of one very well practiced machine.

Fox Jackson Keen as Boy is incredible – his innocence and child-like wonder is targeted just right to be loveable and relatable for the kids, but not irritating or too over-the-top for the adults in the audience. His Grandma, Jenna Augen, is equally as lovely and is the perfect role model she’s supposed to be.

Grand High Witch is played by Sarah Ingram with just the right amount of malice. She’s scary and powerful, but not too scary. She’s not pantomimic, but not soap opera-esque. A great balance and great directing from Nikolai Foster.

My absolute favourite performance comes from Jonny Weldon as Bruno, the bratty kid who’s staying in the same hotel as Boy and his grandma. Bruno is meant to be disliked, but Weldon gets the mix just right. He’s funny, charming (in a disgusting kind of way) and is a great sidekick for Boy in the end. Weldon struts on stage and commands attention every time he appears. It’s great to watch and I expect to see Weldon become quite a big name in the industry over the next few years.

The book and adapted script are obviously wonderful – funny, imaginative and engaging. The added songs and random sung sequences just don’t fit, and seem totally unnecessary and out of place. The cast look uncomfortable taking part in them, and it doesn’t add anything other than mild annoyance. When the rest of the play is so well structured and devised, it seems a shame to throw in random songs – it makes the play half-musical/panto, and it doesn’t work for me at all.

The staging, designed by Isla Shaw, is fantastic. It looks simple enough at a first glance, but the intricacies and complexities of the set that help the whole show run so smoothly is genius. For those interested in the theatre, I would recommend booking tickets just to see this fab little set!

If you have kids or fancy reliving some childhood memories, get yourself down to West Yorkshire Playhouse by 21st January.