Tag Archives: John Bulleid

The Canterville Ghost

★★★★

Unicorn Theatre

The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost

 Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 20th November 2019

★★★★

 

“this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks”

 

Oscar Wilde’s 1887 short story is given a 21st century makeover at one of the capital’s leading theatres for young audiences.

Diplomat Hiram Otis is posted to England with his rabble family. They rent an old Gothic mansion that turns out to have a resident ghost, one Sir Simon Canterville. Attempts to spook the Otis’s by Sir Simon are ignored by the streetwise New Yorkers and this ghost who has been looking for a resting place for over three hundred years is in utter despair, until baby of the family Virginia, takes him seriously, listens to him and helps solve the riddle that will allow him to rest in peace.

This tale is presented with the aid of illusion and magic, Sir Simon having his head under his arm, objects appearing and disappearing, flying furniture and even a body being sawn in half. A simple set (Rosie Elnile) consisting of a blood stained carpet, two large tables and a model house symbolising the mansion are all utilised to the maximum and moved about with an impressive slickness. Lighting (Prema Mehta) is immensely impressive, the windows in the model house all lighting up and the illusions neatly disguised.

This is a highly amusing adaptation, every neatly constructed line seems to contain no words with less than six syllables and the characterisations are pitched perfectly for a young audience, with the humour appreciated greatly by the children, without it being childish. This is a thoughtfully directed piece by Justin Audibert, a huge amount of energy has been injected into the play and so much of the action is delivered with a real flourish.

All the cast are strong, the twin boys, played by girls (Rose-Marie Christian & Mae Munuo) always in unison, Nathaniel Wade enthusiastically playing elder son Washington who is inventing a hat containing an umbrella and Safiyya Ingar charming as green fingered Virginia. Maple syrup loving Dad (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) and interior designed obsessed Mum (Beth Cordingly) are spot on with their relationship and handling of their slightly troublesome offspring. Paul McEwan has a ball playing Sir Simon, I was concerned that the way he slurs a lot of his lines could make it difficult for youngsters, who are hanging on his every word, to decipher what he’s saying. Annie Fitzmaurice as the Scottish housemaid is a positive delight, it was like lifting Private Frazer from Dad’s Army into a female body, all doom, gloom and threats of varicose veins, she was hilarious.

The pace slackened a little in the second act, but the packed audience, consisting mainly of children, absolutely loved it. The young lad sitting next to me rushed back from the interval and announced that he couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

With Unicorn’s magic and a ghost, I think that this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks and is perfect material for all the family.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Canterville Ghost

 Unicorn Theatre until 5th January

 

Chris White’s last ten reviews:
Citysong | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | June 2019
Little Light | ★★★ | The Tower Theatre | June 2019
Feel The Love | ★★★★ | Chickenshed Theatre | July 2019
Parenthood | ★★★½ | The Space | July 2019
Form | ★★★★★ | Camden People’s Theatre | August 2019
Title Of Show | ★★★ | Moors Bar | August 2019
A Great Big Sigh | ★★★ | Hen & Chickens Theatre | September 2019
Moth Hunting | ★★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2019
Chasing Ghosts | ★★★½ | Etcetera Theatre | October 2019
Some Like It Hip Hop | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | October 2019

 

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The Worst Witch

★★★★

Vaudeville Theatre

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch

Vaudeville Theatre

Reviewed – 28th July 2019

★★★★

 

“The energy of the performance carries the story along, sweeping the audience up in a tide of laughter”

 

This review is a joint effort by me and nine year old Manu, a big fan of the Worst Witch books and TV series. We both enjoyed it a lot.

The book was adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, who also devised the TV series. She has a real understanding of Jill Murphy’s books, and has done a great job of bringing the world of Mildred Hubble and her friends to the stage. Manu says it was as good as the TV episodes, but different. Theresa Heskins, the director, was faced with a host of challenges including disappearing people, broomstick flying, cats, and a Shenanigans spell. Luckily she had a magic advisor, John Bulleid, an esteemed member of the magic circle, who clearly knows a thing or two about how to make the impossible happen. We were still trying to figure out how they got Enid into the suitcase, as we walked to the tube station after the show.

Danielle Bird is a wonderfully endearing and hopeless Mildred, Out of her depth but brave enough to stand up to bullies big and small and to fight for her friends. Manu’s favourite characters from among the children were Ethel and Enid, played by Rosie Abraham and Consuela Rolle. He said Ethel was really good at being mean and just full of herself and Enid was crazy funny. I agree with him, Abrahams kept Ethel at just the right pitch of vile, making her change of heart quite poignant, and Rolle’s Enid is a real force of nature. Mildred and her best friend Maud, played by Rebecca Killick did an impressive piece of comedy aerial work on their broomsticks and developed their friendship through adversity very nicely.

Manu’s favourite adult in the show was the hugely impressive Polly Lister, who played both Miss Cackle and Agatha, her evil twin. Before the show started we read the programme, and wondered how she would manage to do both. Manu tried to figure out how she would be able to manage if she had a scene that both characters were in. Well, we discovered that she managed very well indeed, giving an absolute tour de force performance in the second act, belting out songs, killing a sock and generally becoming hilariously unhinged. It was Manu’s ‘best bit,’and mine too.

Manu’s final comment is that he would tell his friends to go and see it, because it’s really good and they would like it.

Simon Daw’s simple, quirky design nicely evokes the feeling of a school for witches, and the sound and lighting, by Leigh Davis and Aideen Malone conjure magic when needed, and the right atmosphere all the time. There are some cracking songs too, composed by Luke Potter. I’m humming one as I write this. The music is performed by four versatile cast members, two of them playing multiple instruments.

The Worst Witch is a fabulous fun show for kids and adults. The energy of the performance carries the story along, sweeping the audience up in a tide of laughter, drama and a real empathy for girls like Mildred. It’s a show with a big heart and a large helping of joy.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Worst Witch

Vaudeville Theatre until 8th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Lady Windermere’s Fan | ★★★★ | January 2018
Them/Us | ★★★ | June 2019
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

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