Saturday, 3 December 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Thirty-Seven

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London. December 2016.

My sister and I ended up seeing this by accident, we had planned on seeing Book of Mormon but this week they've moved the matinee of this to Friday rather than the normal Wednesday (after we'd booked the day off work of course) however we hadn't had a day out together, just the two of us, since 2007 and so we looked around for another good offer.*

Roald Dahl has always an author we've both loved reading - in fact I think my sister 'discovered' him first and he certainly turned her in to a reader - so we were aware that this show existed.  However the danger with seeing an adaptation of a favourite is that it can ruin the original.  Matilda is an example of this - for however catchy the songs and talented the cast I really can't forgive them for the liberties taken with an outstanding story.

If I'm honest my heart sank further as we arrived at the theatre to find it over run with large, excited and noisy school parties...

Fortunately the show won me round, I found it captivating, inventive and all in all a pretty good adaptation of the source material. The sets were glorious and the four grandparents stole every scene they were in and making the imaginary world of Dahl come to life without CGI was very clever. My favourites were the "live broadcasts" as the children won their tickets and the gum inventing room complete with robots but all of it stayed close to my own mind-pictures.

However I did have issues with sound and or diction - several times I couldn't here the words both spoken and sung, this was more shocking as the actors were clearly wearing working microphones. I'm also surprised because it was both child actors and Wonka himself that I couldn't here.  We weren't up in the very 'gods' either and I can't blame it on the school parties as they were impeccably behaved throughout the show.

The other negative is that there are no memorable songs, in fact it might have been better had this been more of a 'show' and dropped more of the musical numbers.  The lines added for adults were also a little over the top - did Verruca Salt really mention that she wanted North Korea???
I think that this managed to create an identity of its own away from the two films - I was worried that it would be far too much like the (terrible) Depp version but it kept the darkness of the Gene Wilder version and the book - with the casual Oompa Loompa racism removed!

I'm pleased we saw the show, I'm very pleased with how little we paid for such good seats but I can't express a lot of surprise that it is closing, and although there is talk of a tour it is going to have to be reworked an awful lot to make it work in smaller theatres I think it will also lose all the magic and charm.

*I have since discovered that is just as well we didn't get tickets to see Mormon as my brother in law was ready to disown me and have my sister sleeping on the sofa if we'd seen this without him...!

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