Major new staging bringing Jill Murphy's much-loved characters to life on stage.

This major new story written by Emma Reeves and directed by Theresa Heskins, features original songs, music, magic and a dose of Mildred’s unique brand of utter pandemonium!

Jealous Ethel Hallow is always out to spoil Mildred’s fun. Miss Hardbroom is opposed to all fun in general. And just as Mildred sparks some inevitable mayhem certain to upset them both, an old enemy returns with a plan for revenge that could threaten not just the Academy, but the whole world.

Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch remains within many a child’s fictional repertoire, despite the first book in the series being published some 45 years ago. The Worst Witch - aka Mildred Hubble - was around decades before Harry Potter so could be dubbed as one of the original magical characters. Still held fondly in the hearts of many, Emma Reeves has respectfully adapted a new story, based on Murphy’s vision for the stage, which is currently nearing the end of its U.K. tour, prior to a limited London run.

The tales of Mildred Hubble lend themselves well to the theatre; with a normal girl finding herself thrust into a magical world she knew nothing about. The strong characters are also a key part of its success, including the delightful Miss Cackle, the hard-faced yet misunderstood Miss Hardbroom and the brilliantly evil Ethel Hallow.

Theresa Heskins directs the stage show and interprets Hubble’s world exceptionally well. From the original music to the quirky choreography, it feels incredibly fresh and is a joy to watch. Simon Daw ‘s set is clearly inspired by Murphy’s illustrations and allows for several levels to be played across. Although initially appearing a bit rough around the edges, it soon becomes relevant as to why, when the ‘show within a show’ element is explained. This is my only qualm about the whole production as it didn’t feel necessary in the large scheme of things.

The lighting by Aideen Malone, whilst good, felt like it was being consistently cued a beat behind. The interpretation of the music is what struck me persistently throughout the production as it is so unlike anything else I’ve seen before. Molly-Grace Cutler and Megan Leigh Mason are responsible for the bulk of the vocals, playing multiple instruments and providing realistic sound effects. Whilst they are not necessarily essential to the script, they are paramount in the stage show.

As an ensemble cast, the entirely female company cannot be faulted and they work tremendously well together. Danielle Bird as Mildred Hubble is a wonderful protagonist and excels at being clumsy and goofy but possesses a heart of gold. Jessie J-lookalike, Miss Hardbroom (played by Rachel Heaton), is precision personified and her steely persona is maintained throughout, with just a glimmer of humanity shown towards the end. Rosie Abraham’s Ethel is superb at playing the arrogant bully of the class and her characterisation for the duration is really enjoyable to watch.

The Worst Witch is a celebration of superb children’s fiction, friendship and courage. It has great morals and is a triumphant adaptation to stage. 

The Worst Witch plays at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 26 May before visiting Liverpool and London.

**** 4 stars

Jenny Ell

4 Stars on Wed, 22 May 2019

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