Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a Disney classic- far less well known than Mary Poppins – both created by the legendary Sherman brothers, but still a firm family favourite with the excellent Angela Lansbury in the lead role Miss Eglantine Price. When I heard it had been turned into a theatre show I was really intrigued to see how it would translate; they visit an underwater world and an island populated only by animals after all, so I was really excited to see it when it came to The Empire for February half term.
The story begins with the three Rawlins children being evacuated from London during the Second World War. It was quite a brutal beginning with the children being orphaned following an air raid but it was really well done and the use of props and scenery to set the scene was imaginative and effective. Their beautiful cosy bedroom was blown apart and the piece moved away to show war torn London with the bombed out buildings and aeroplanes flying overhead. The set then morphs into a train which takes the children out of the city to safety and into the museum where they await their guardian.
On meeting their guardian (the brilliantly cast Dianne Pilkington) Miss Price, things quickly take a turn for the magical and fantastical. Miss Price it turns out is a witch…an apprentice at least.
The staging and production was wonderful- brooms and shoes dancing across the stage and not to mention an actual flying four poster swooping into the air as if by, well- magic!
Dianne Pilkington reminded me a little of Alice from BBC drama Luther- a recluse and misfit she soon softens to the children and takes them on a fabulous adventure using only a bedknob, some magic words and the old faithful…believing.
Pilkington is supported on stage by some excellent young actors- particularly Conor O’Hara as Charlie and by the one and only Emelius Brown, played by Charles Brunton.
‘Portobello Road’ is probably the most famous original song but there are some lovely new numbers written for the show by Neil Bartram too.
The under the sea scenes were really fun and not at all clunky which I had feared. The use of puppets was wonderful and the handlers didn’t distract from the animals characters at all.
I am not quite sure what I was expecting to see but this production surpassed my hopes. It was beautifully nostalgic and so cleverly put together that the scene changes and choreography were seamless. I think that younger children would maybe benefit from seeing the film first but either way it will sweep you along and- without wishing to give away any spoilers- I was more than grateful for the final scene and epilogue.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is only in the Empire for a few more days so get on line and grab a ticket while you can. It’s half term magic.