Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Enter the fantasy world of magic and make believe.
Adapting a much loved animated film, let alone a Disney classic, is always going to be a challenge. You can do so much on screen which defies logic, physics or simple understanding; let’s be honest, that is what makes such movies appealing to everyone, yet the current tour of Bedknobs and Broomsticks manages to create all the mystery, magic and danger of the original 1971 Disney movie right before your eyes.
Right from the opening scene, which, without any words being spoken begins the story of 3 London children (Charlie, Carrie and Paul) who, having lost their home and their parents during the Blitz, are bundled up, put on a train and transported away. The scene changing as they move from the war torn capital through the hustle and bustle of panicked evacuation and out to the serene calmness of the countryside is stage craft at its very highest. Eldest Rawlins, Charlie, is played by Conor O'Hara with the two younger members of the family being shared cast.
On reaching their designated ‘safe house’ the children soon realise their patron is more than just an eccentric lady; she is a trainee witch. Dianne Pilkington as Eglatine Price is wonderful in the Angela Lansbury role; kind yet direct, fantastical yet recognising the children need to remain grounded. In proving her abilities to doubting Charlie she turns him into a rabbit using the The Turn-a-Man-into-a-Rabbit Spell (Filigree apogee pedigree perigee), wonderfully effected using puppets and prosthetics. Cue the next step in her development and her first flight on her broomstick. This is simply magical; again, the staging and effects are better than any CGI as you can see it happening right before your eyes.
In a desire to use her magic to help end the war without further bloodshed, Ms Price realises the one final spell she needs is missing from her tome of magic and so back to London they must go to find the other part of the book, currently held by small time street illusionist Emelius Browne (Charles Brunton). Time for the Bedknob, bewitched by a Travelling spell (Hellebore henbane aconite glow-worm fire and firefly light) by Ms Price, and yet more wonderment as the bed begins to fly, it too defying gravity in the most magical of ways. Gone are obvious wires and strange pulleys, the flying scenes in this show will have you transfixed in trying to see how they do it.
From London, and with Mr Browne in tow, they venture to the land of No Pee Pol and seek an audience with the King, a majestic lion (another brilliant puppet akin to Lion King or War Horse). On the way Browne and Price take part in an underwater version of Strictly Musicals, great dancing but sadly for some in the audience, a little too long to keep their attention.
Emboldened with the necessary final spell - Substitutiary Locomotion (Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee), they return back to the house and begin to enchant a new army of objects to take the place of people just as the invasion begins.
A wonderfully told story, though possibly a little too long for younger members of the audience; the original movie runs at 97 minute however this production returns it back to the original 2 hours 15mins, however with great numbers such as "Bobbing along", "The Age of Not Believing" and "Negotiality" this show positively flies by (both figuratively and physically).