For one night only, on Tuesday 9 June, Blackpool and Fylde College Extended Diploma Performing Arts students presented Roald Dahl’s The Witches at Blackpool Grand Theatre and what a treat of hyper-vivid Dahlishness it was. This hour and twenty minutes (including interval) at the theatre was a pacy parade through the master of macabre’s story (modified for the stage by that monopolist of young people’s theatre adaptations David Woods).

This is part of a programme of activity at the theatre called Grand Community which is obviously an important aspect of their work as a regional arts venue with local audiences at its heart. The chance to work on a professional stage of this size and scale is also a vital part of the experience of any young person who may wish to follow performance-related pathways.

The Witches is a simple story about witches living among us who have an ongoing master-plan to eradicate all children (who to them smell like dog-poo) once and for all. The witches can be spotted by their wigs, which cover bald, scabby heads, their hands with no finger-nails, which are covered by gloves, their large nostrils and their lack of toes. This great choice of text definitely gave the healthy-in-numbers audience what they wanted; a good-value, fun night out for all the family.

The student performers demonstrated excellent ensemble-working although, under the cover of brightly-coloured wigs and film-noir shades, it’s difficult to give kudos to individual witches. However, they were obviously having great fun, taking the opportunity seriously and aiming high with their individual characterisations.

Special mention has to go to Adam Martin-Brooks and Benjamin Wilcox who created a set-piece of physical comedy as the two chefs. In a slapstick food-orientated piece reminiscent of Pixar’s Ratatouille, my only slight disappointment was the lack of gravy in the face as the culmination to this clowning segment which the whole audience was waiting for with bated glee.

Amy Western maintained a cool loftiness in her portrayal of the Grand High Witch, a part that might otherwise have the tendency to descend into pantomime villainess. Frazer Mundy was clear and charming as the Boy and Paul Simmons’ continually-consuming Bruno was a good foil to his clean-cut portrayal plus Serge Metcalf was obviously playing well to the crowd with his range of ludicrous cameos.

Some clever moments of staging (my favourite being the corridor of pictures held up in small version when the humans pass and in large when the mice pass to give a sense of scale) included great use of the royal boxes. Whilst in some circles length seems to be synonymous with quality, as a big fan of the shorter theatre piece, the fact that I didn’t once look at my watch is an indication of success. Whilst accents may have momentarily slipped and set tricks proved to be, at times, sticky, all students and staff should feel satisfied with their part in putting on a good show.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Avatar photo

    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

  • Show Comments (1)

  • Samantha Stenton

    Thank you very much for coming to see our show and writing this review, I will show the students tomorrow. They all had a wonderful time at The Grand and it was an invaluable experience for them to work in a professional environment.

    Once again, thank you for such a positive review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like

Images courtesy of Jay Clapp Photography

Gallery: Ireland at the World Fireworks Championships 2013

Friday saw Ireland wow Blackpool with their pyrotechnical skills at the first of four ...

Mods Musical Set to Invade Blackpool

If you have a penchant for Italian fashion and a love for all that is ...

Fun in the Park with Wordpool Family Day 2018

Walking, talking trees; huge flying birds; giant spiders; theatre in suitcases; elephants and mice; ...