Friday, 4 December 2015

The Witches

Dundee Rep
Three stars

Young audiences beware. Choose carefully which brand of sticky confectionery you stuff your faces with during the interval of Dundee Rep's festive production of Roald Dahl's supernatural classic, as adapted here by Dahl specialist David Wood. If you scoff down the wrong kind, you might just return having been transformed into a mouse. This is exactly what happens to the Boy narrator of the story and his greedy friend Bruno when they accidentally gatecrash an international witches conference in Bournemouth's swanky Hotel Magnificent.

Such notions of subjugation and social control over the young have already been cranked up at the witches conference itself. While the Tory-blue twin-sets stay on, attendees toss aside all vestiges of humanity that their wigs and gloves provide. This adds to the grotesquerie as Emily Winter's Grand High Witch holds the floor like some crazed tin-pot dictator waging war on imaginary enemies.

Using a mix of mouse puppets and human-size rodents scampering among giant-size hotel kitchen detritus, Jemima Levick's production starts off quietly, as Matthew Forbes' Boy unravels his story on Jean Chan's platformed set. With a ton of exposition to get through, things only really start to get spooky when the Boy is almost tempted down, Eden-like, from his Norwegian tree-house by a serpent-wielding witch.

With Jo Freer lending comic support as the Grand High Witch's hapless sidekick Beatrice, the show's

strongest scene comes when the Boy, in collusion with Bruno and his Granny, conspire to give the witches an overdue taste of their own bitter medicine. As they twitch and shudder their way into oblivion, an entire chorus line of evil is given its just desserts.

The Herald, December 7th 2015

ends

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