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Home » The Witches At The National Theatre: Review

The Witches At The National Theatre: Review


The Witches has begun its winter run at the Olivier Theatre, run by the National Theatre, and the play is an adaptation of the best-selling children’s novel written by Roald Dahl.

It tells the story of Luke, aged 10, (Bertie Caplan, Frankie Keita & Vishal Soni) who one day discovers the truth about witches after his parents tragically die in a car crash, leaving him in the car of his eccentric Norwegian grandmother (Sally Ann Triplett), who reveals her life’s work hunting witches.

The show is directed by Lyndsey Turner, with music written by Obie Award-winning Dave Malloy.

Luke and his family (Image: Marc Brenner)

The set design is very immersive, created by Lizzie Clachan, featuring a dark exterior which resembles the wizened fingers of a witch, along with a set that mainly centres around the Hotel Magnificent, where we see a host of sets to convey the idea of a working hotel in Bournemouth.

With the set on a rotating stage, it really conveys a sense of movement and is used to its full capacity during the show.

At one point the scene will take place in the grandeur of the Hotel Magnificent dining room, and will move as the chef re-enters the kitchen, dropping his garb as a French chef and becoming a bereft chef with a south London accent.

Hotel guests (Image: Marc Brenner)

Katherine Kingsley gives a fantastic performance as the Grand High Witch, making her character dark and twisted, but at the same time relatable and funny to the adult audience members, especially during her solo number where she lists the many things you could do in the absence of children.

Daniel Rigby gives a highly amusing performance of the uptight Hotel Magnificent manager Mr Stringer, to whom many of the adult audience members and I were laughing, as he bumbled around the stage in a bid to maintain the hotel’s reputation and seek out the mice that have plagued it.

Mr Stringer and company (Image: Marc Brenner)

The show captures so much of the dark and sinister moments from the book, that I remember reading as a child, whilst making the show funny and entertaining, punctuated with many jokes, innuendos and musical numbers that got plenty of laughs from the audience members.

From the adult-themed quips and jokes made by the actors, that only the adult members of the audiences would understand, even the most cynical of adults who aren’t one for family shows would almost assuredly get a chuckle out of this production.

National Theatre have simultaneously made a show that feels modern and relevant to the times, with references to our modern world like TikTok and the use of phones, whilst still retaining so much of the original charm and nostalgia from the book.

Getting the perfect selfie (Image: Marc Brenner)

The show is funny, dark, and heart-warming, and touches upon the important lesson of learning to make the best out of a bad situation and learning to live with grief.

Sensory Considerations Due to the nature of the show, the performance has a lot of moments with flashing lights, strobe lights and other lighting affects, during scenes where the witches are casting spells.

There aren’t too many loud bangs or sudden noises, except for one scene where one of the witches sets fire to some trophies.

There are also moments where the stage abruptly turns dark and light again during the performance.

The Grand High Witch (Image: Marc Brenner)

Access Performances Captioned performances will be on Thursday December 14 at 1pm, Wednesday January 17 at 1pm, Wednesday January 24 at 7pm and Saturday, January 27 at 1:30pm.

BSL interpreted performances will be held on Thursday, December 28 at 7pm and Wednesday, January 17 at 1pm.

Audio described performances will be held on Saturday, December 9 at 1:30pm, Saturday, January 20 at 1:30pm and Wednesday, January 24 at 1pm.

A sensory adapted performance will also be held on Thursday, December 21 at 7pm.

The Witches will be playing at the Olivier Theatre until January 27, with tickets starting from £20.

Bruno and company (Image: Marc Brenner)