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Review: The Witches, The Forum Studio Theatre, Chester

Angela Ferguson and her daughters head to the Forum Studio Theatre in Chester to watch Tip Top Productions’s staging of Roald Dahl classic The Witches. Photos: Mark Carline.

There are cackles, spells and laughs aplenty in this enchanting and fast-paced production from the talented folk at Tip Top.

The Witches is an absolute classic from the pen of Roald Dahl, weaving in tales of good vs evil along with a moving look at the close bond between a child and his grandmother.

Fiendish plan

The creativity of director Phil Cross and his talented cast and crew is evidenced throughout the show, with clever use of the studio theatre space and some ingenious staging and props. Meanwhile, the energetic and talented troupe of actors take us into a world where evil witches cook up a fiendish plan to get rid of children across the land. Our spell for the perfect half-term production here includes a liberal sprinkling of shrill witches’ screams, the Beak of a Bladdersnitch and a heady dose of slapstick.

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Photo: Mark Carline

Our heroes, Boy, played by the talented young actor Ben Rackham, and his wise and witty grandmamma (Christine Dukes) have a very loving and warm relationship. Grandmamma is a tenacious character with a sparkle in her eyes and a definite glass half full take on life. She is not easily shocked. This is just as well as she is called on to rally against the might of the coven of witches to help her grandson and his new friend Bruno Jenkins, confidently played by another talented young actor, Zach Waddington. The witches are gathering at a hotel under the guise of being attendees of the AGM of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. What could possibly go wrong?!

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Grandmamma (Christine Dukes) and Boy (Ben Rackham). Photo: Mark Carline

Fresh dog droppings

Grand High Witch (Caireen Candling) is definitely not to be trifled with, with a terrifying way of dealing with any witches who step out of line. And she cannot abide children, describing them as smelling like fresh dog droppings. This makes for some fun interaction with our audience of adults and children. Will the Grand High Witch and her coven of cackling accomplices succeed in pursuing their evil plan?  Well, we can’t possibly say, just in case you are fortunate enough to have tickets for the remaining sold out performances today and tomorrow.

Suffice to say, it’s a truly magical experience from beginning to end. Tip Top have gone all out to make this a fun and enchanting experience for their audience, with a series of activities for children to do during the interval. This includes putting a charming and fairy light-adorned writing shed in the foyer of the Forum Studio Theatre. Here children – or adults – are invited to write down their dreams – what a wonderful idea.

We Are Chester rating: **** (four stars)

About Angela Ferguson (138 Articles)
I'm a writer, journalist and blogger, as well as the founder and editor of culture webzine wearechester.co.uk. I'm also a university lecturer in journalism and media communications and a presenter at Flipside Radio.

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