Esme Violet Anderson reveals her thoughts of the magical story when she went to watch it at The Edinburgh Playhouse last night…
As I sat down in the theatre, there was a sense that we were about to enter a world of pure imagination. The theatre was alive with energy and excitement. Who doesn’t love the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
The show did not disappoint. The whole cast were eye-catching, and the energy of the show shone through in each and every actor as they immersed the audience into the world of Willy Wonka. Of course, Charlie (Noah Walton) stole the show, his singing was impeccable from start to finish, he was all in for the entire show, and he made a perfect match for both Wonka and Grandpa Joe. Walton may have been the youngest on stage by far, but he carried the whole production.
An interesting use of actors which I thoroughly enjoyed was using the grandparents as the parents of the ticket holders. I am amazed at some of the quick changes that must have been happening backstage, and not one cue was missed, a particular challenge for Kate Milner Evans who had to go from Mrs Gloop to Grandma Josephine in seconds. Charlie’s mum (Leonie Spilsbury) also used sign language throughout the whole show, an inclusivity that is rarely seen in on stage shows. It’s great to see the theatre industry working on being more accessible.
I will admit, I was a bit apprehensive about some parts of the show, I wondered how they would manage all the special effects and ‘magic’ on stage. It’s one thing in a movie or in a book but live in front of an audience is a challenge. For the most part, the magic was kept alive, with Wonka throwing light in the air, his floating top hat and the boat ride through the factory using on-stage props alongside visual graphics on a screen at the back of the stage to create an almost 3D like journey. However, some bits were too digital, such as Augustus going up the chocolate shoot and when the children first entered the factory, it felt like there could have been more real pieces of set on stage and the graphics looked almost like they were from a video game.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened when we entered the factory in the second act. The Oompa Loompas were robots, reminiscent of cyber men. Their opening number was quite terrifying, I think some of the kids in the audience may be having nightmares about those Oompa Loompas for a while. But it really worked, it would be hard to recreate those scenes we see in the movies, so making them machines who work for Wonka makes more sense in a stage version. I was even more shocked when the squirrel that Veruca wants was 2 x bigger than any human on stage. Another very clever way of keeping the originality of the story on stage.
Wonka (Gareth Snook) was a perfect mix of Sir Robert Helpmann’s Child Catcher from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and Johnny Depp’s Wonka. Gareth Snook’s Wonka showed little to no remorse for the four ticket winners who met rather unfortunate demises in the factory making Snook’s Wonka more threatening and unnerving than Depp’s and certainly much scarier than Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the character. A quick mention also to Michael D’Cruze who played Grandpa Joe with such childlike energy and spirit, bringing the whole show together.
Of course, the show ended with Charlie and Wonka in the glass elevator floating high above the stage and the valuable message, be a good person and good things will come to you. A good message to live by and a good way to ward off the threat of being turned into a blueberry in a Chocolate Factory.