Thursday, May 30

The Witches – The Brindley, Runcorn

With the storyline hinging on magic, mayhem and turning children into mice, I wasn’t sure how Roald

Dahl’s much-loved classic The Witches would translate onstage, especially when performed by an amateur dramatic group whose budget wouldn’t stretch to fancy pyrotechnics and feats of theatrical excellence.

The staging was simple, to be sure – perhaps a little too simplistic to really set the scene – but most of the ensemble within Encore Productions were strong enough to cast and maintain the spell over the audience for most of the performance.

For me, the standout performers were Alfie Okell as the pre-pubescent protagonist The Boy and Julie Lord’s striking portrayal of The Grand High Witch. Special mention should also be given to Hannah Smith as Mrs Jenkins, whose deliberate over the top acting was brilliant light relief – as well as Amanda Roberts and Samantha Duxberry’s slapstick comedy skit in the second act as the two chefs (which had the children in the audience in stitches). Sadly, for me, the rest of the cast were not so much lacklustre as perhaps too full of lustre, with some cast members too boisterous to the point of detracting from the main action.

Kudos does have to be given to director Mike Pirks, who has obviously put a lot of time, effort and consideration into the staging and theatricality of the piece. It’s clear this performance was well rehearsed from a committed ensemble – but for me, I felt like it needed a little more technical consideration to take it to the next level.

As amateur dramatic performances go, Encore Production’s The Witches is fun for all the family, with something for all ages to enjoy.

The Witches is performing at The Brindley Studio until Saturday 29th April 2023.

Reviewer: Hannah Wilde

Reviewed: 27th April 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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