The Witches – Reviewed by Lee Farley.
Coach House Theatre
Dec 21, 2017
MALVERN Theatre Players have established a popular festive theatrical identity at the Coach House over the last few years, bringing adaptations of Roald Dahl’s well-loved stories to life with energy and a cast of local actors from eight to 80.
‘The Witches’ is far from Roald Dahl’s finest tale, but MTP offer an entertaining evening nonetheless.
The story is slight.
A boy (he remains nameless throughout – one of many strange storytelling decisions) loses his parents in familiar Dahl-style and goes to live with his Grandmother who tells him stories about witches.
They travel to England and end up in a Bournemouth hotel where a witches convention is taking place.
Dastardly plans are afoot. The tale doesn’t offer much in the way of characterisation.
It’s puzzling and unsatisfying that the witches are given no motivation or back story.
The same goes for Bruno, a boy we meet at the hotel for no obvious reason who is described repeatedly as ‘fat’.
This is one of a number of mean-spirited, obsolete stereotypes featured.
In 2017 these look out-dated and incongruous. The story ends strangely too, without Dahl’s usual moral lessons or subtle criticism of adult behaviours.
It’s hard to work out what he was getting at here, unlike the clear message conveyed by the characters in, say, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Chris Bassett’s production saves the day from Dahl’s lightweight storytelling, by employing an excellent cast and some ingenious theatrical effects.
The intimate space is transformed quickly into different locations by the use of projections, video (sometimes a live feed) and some oversized props.
A tremendous cast of young local actors steal the show with their porters, mice, frogs, and waiters.
Alfie Coutts holds proceedings together with charm and skill, well supported by Sam Powell.
There’s a scene featuring some excellent cheese-related physical comedy which is very Caerphilly choreographed (festive apologies).
I particularly enjoyed the witches’ conference.
The delegates reacting with hysterical glee at their despotic leader Stephanie Underwood-Webb’s every fiendish plan and idea.
There’s even a PowerPoint presentation. A familiar horror to many in the audience.
Add into the mix some panto-style comedy chefs, some sinister witchy dancing to the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’, puppets, and magic potions and this is an exuberant, colourful and fun night out.
The production is mostly sold out, but you can support your local community theatre by buying tickets via Malvern Theatres box office 01684 892277 for their EXTRA PERFORMANCE on Sunday 31st Dec at 11am.