BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS
THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
BOX OFFICE 01752 267222
RUNNING TIME – 2 HOURS 35 MINUTES (INCLUDING ONE INTERVAL)
9 MARCH 2022
The English writer Mary Norton is best known for ‘The Borrowers’, but it ISfrom some of her other books, that Disney chose to create their 1971 film ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’. Sibling children are evacuated to the country and through some magic they are transported on adventures in a strange land – mmmmm, having recently seen ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, the similarities are potent.
The film of Norton’s books was a moderate success, but didn’t, and has never, hit the heights of ‘Mary Poppins’ with which it is often compared. Like ‘Poppins’ a stage adaptation has been created and faces some of the same challenges – both require some visual trickery and have to overcome the animated sequences used on celluloid.
The show starts with the three central children’s house being bombed and a well put-together montage of their journey to their new home. Throughout, the sets and (often two-dimensional props) are moved by the hardworking cast and, as a technique, this works well and is efficient. There is ‘magic’, a flying broomstick and bed and a few other sideshows, but it is a little tame – once the bed has raised off the ground the first time, it doesn’t excite again.
Diane Pilkington, as the apprentice witch Eglantine Price, is good fun and strong-voiced, though I wonder if she should come across as slightly more batty. Charles Brunton, as the bogus magician Emelius Browne, is definitely batty and creates a wonderfully endearing character; a super performance.
The whole story though revolves around three children, the eldest of which, Charlie, is 13. Something jars here and jars badly. Yes, Charlie is the biggest of these three roles but the casting of an adult in the part against two children of around the correct age just does not work – the audience titters in disbelief when the character’s age is revealed. I also don’t understand why Charlie has a completely different accent to his brother and sister, Carrie and Paul who appear fairly middle-class? Poppy Houghton & Jasper Hawes, playing the younger children in the performance I watched, are excellent. Charlie’s accent travels around a bit – largely ‘cockney’ with some Midlands thrown in – and accidentally pays tribute to that of Dick van Dyke in the ‘Poppins’ film. Conor O’Hara, making his professional debut, seems terribly miscast; not the actors fault, but why have the director and producers allowed it?
There are few other main characters along the way, but there is some nice work from Susannah Van Den Berg as the rough talking Mrs Mason and Rob Madge (recently winner of WhatsOnStage Award for Best Off-West End Production) as a delightful fish!
The climactic battle of inanimate objects and the marauding Germans doesn’t work and is unthrilling and just as you think there may be something special at the end… there isn’t.
At times, the lighting is very dim to disguise the magic mechanics and though the band are active throughout the music is largely unmemorable.
The many children in the audience watched patiently and will have enjoyed aspects I am sure, but it is far too long and the first half in particular too talkie and too static. The show doesn’t seem fully realised and the staging is very patchy in its success. A disappointment.
CAST & CREATIVES
EGLANTINE PRICE – DIANNE PILKINGTON
EMELIUS BROWNE – CHARLES BRUNTON
CHARLIE RAWLINS – CONOR O’HARA
CARRIE RAWLINS –
PAUL RAWLINS –
MRS HOBDAY – JACQUI DUBOIS
MRS MASON – SUSANNAH VAN DEN BERG
NORTON – ROB MADGE
KING LEONIDAS – MATTHEW ELLIOTT-CAMPBELL
SHERMAN – MAK ANDERSON
ANGELA – EMMA THORNETT
ENSEMBLE & SWINGS – SADIE-JEAN SHIRLEY, KAYLA CARTER, SAM LUPTON, NATHANIEL MORRISON, ROBIN SIMOES DA SILVA, JESSICA AUBREY, GEORGIE BUCKLAND, VINNIE MONTACELLO, JONATHAN COBB
ORIGINAL MUSIC AND LYRICS – RICHARD M SHERMAN & ROBERT B SHERMAN
NEW SONGS AND ADDITIONAL MUSIC AND LYRICS – NEIL BARTRAM
BOOK – BRIAN HILL
DIRECTORS – CANDICE EDMUNDS & JAMIE HARRISON
RESIDENT DIRECTOR – REBECCA LOUIS
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – LAURA BANGAY
COSTUME DESIGN – GABRIELLA SLADE
SOUND DESIGN – GARETH FRY
LIGHTING DESIGN – SIMON WILKINSON
CHOREOGRAPHER – NEIL BETTLES
ILLUSION CONSULTANT – CHRIS FISHER