Well, Christmas has come and gone, everyone! I hope you’ve all enjoyed spending time with family, stuffed your faces and hopefully gone to see some theatre. If you haven’t seen anything yet, or don’t know what to spend your Theatre Tokens on (if you were lucky enough for Santa to bring you some), then read on. After months of preparation and rehearsals, the West Yorkshire Playhouse has been cutting through the wacky pantomime-dominated winter with their new production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming’s classic children’s story. Adapted for the stage with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers, this is the second large-scale musical production of the classic children’s story set on either side of the First World War.
I’m sure everyone knows the story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: inventor Caractacus Potts (Jon Robyns) and his children Jeremy and Jemima (Oscar Ward and Lucy Grundy) save and refurbish a former race car destined for the melting pot at a local garage. Meeting a lady named Truly Scrumptious (Amy Griffiths) at the garage, the four embark on an adventure – but the greedy, toy-loving Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria (Don Gallagher) sets out to capture the magical car for his collection. Meanwhile, his wife (Tamsin Carroll) employs the dreaded Childcatcher (Stephen Matthews) to rid their kingdom of children.
What follows is a mad escapade involving magical toilets, crazy inventions and one unforgettable car, and let me tell you – it’s incredible! Everything about this production sparkles and shines with sheer magic. Let’s start with the performances. The entire company, from the main characters to the extensive ensemble of adults and children, give it their absolute all, with energy, slickness and confidence in every performance. Songs and dances are executed superbly well too, and you can’t help but feel great while watching these top performances and unfolding of such a well-rounded plot.
The performances aren’t the only awesome thing about this production of Chitty. A simple yet innovative scenography from Simon Higlett, which interweaves video projections with lighting and sound, along with bits of furniture, enables the story to flit from location to location and create a multitude of atmospheres in the process. This production contains a ton of detail and the design team have done a delightful job.
Higlett’s costumes are also simply stunning, and capture the essence of the time period and Fleming and Brining’s amalgamated visual aesthetic for the piece. The Childcatcher’s costume has to be one of my favourites and pinpoints perfectly the confident quirkiness of the entire show, as do all of the others. They’re smart, vibrant and contribute even more to Brining’s take on a world that’s all about imagination and where it can take us.
This production of Chitty is, without a doubt, one of the best shows that the WYP has ever made. It ticks so many boxes as to what makes great theatre, and Brining and the team have absolutely nailed it with this one. It’s magical, relevant, moving and heartwarming. And the best bit? This isn’t just a Christmas treat – Chitty flies out on tour across the country next year, so make sure to catch her here and beyond!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 30 January. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website. Photo: Alistair Muir.