The Witches | RMIT Union Arts

The Witches | RMIT Union ArtsPhotos - Marc Morel

RMIT Director-in-residence Lynne Ellis has done it again. This brilliant adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale about a young boy and his grandmother tempering the evil forces of conspiracy is a summer hit.

All is not what it seems when a coven of witches plot and scheme to turn all of the children of England into mice. Grand Witch (James Wray) vomits vile blue when she gets a whiff of smelly little children. Under her watchful eye the witches gather in a big city Hotel set to unleash foul play throughout the land. The Hotel’s clueless Bell Boy (Han Tran) becomes their unwitting counterpart. As if to appear prim and proper to high society, the witches conspiracy is cleverly disguised as a rather toffee-nosed affair - A Royal Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Children Convention - a lovely ladies luncheon style bash no less.

When intrepid seven-year-old Boy (Briena Macnish) and his chocoholic best mate, Bruno (Erin Roth) discover the witches ruse and attempt to foil their evil plans, the lads find themselves the subject of gross magic, sporting a tail, pointy ears, long whiskers and four furry feet. But how can they save the children, as tiny mice?

Boy turns his mousy misfortune to great use. His resourceful four legs carry him to his wise grandmother, who knows about such awful witchy business. The duo, with the assistance of a woolly sock that dear old granny is knitting, manage to spike the witches pea soup luncheon with their own brand sinister potion. The witches themselves fall prey and are transformed into a plague of mice - conspiracy averted. The children of England are saved. Magic behests magic, and while Boy too is destined to remain a mouse forever more, it doesn’t matter who or what he is, as will always have his Gran.

Dahl’s classic tale about things not being what they seem is used to great effect by Director Ellis, who has made a fine kiddies theatre spectacular with the witty contemporary adaptation by David Wood. The conspiracy metaphor played out in full force through superb character performances, Mr Jenkins (Claire Jenkins) and Grand Witch (James Wray) are standout roles, making sidesplitting, playful, critical references to fast food outlets, multinationals, media moguls, cult celebrity disasters and ousted liberal parties.

Along side all this loud riotous fun is the signature RMIT Arts ribaldry, cascading body fluids, flatulence references, The Goodies references, jackass shenanigans, water pistols released on an unsuspecting audience all delightfully set against that wise age old maxim, that the meek, the humble little creatures will indeed inherit our fraught little planet earth.

Like previous RMIT Arts Children’s spectaculars, last years Fantastic Mr. Fox for instance, this production is postmodern media panto at its best - a delight for under tens and their yummy mummy’s and Daddy’s too. Laced with gender bending casting, dazzling lighting design, eighties retro sound design (Dan O’Shea), clever use of screens, multimedia VJ’ing (Mitch Ellis), an interactive dance party (kids get to jump around on stage) and the intoxicating slew of good, bad and ugly stage magic. Delicious Mouse costumes by Christine Hartnett, imaginative Set Design by Temila Macewan.

This meekest of budget spectacular’s produced by Ellis and The Kaleide Theatre crew delights, engages, entertains and illuminates. The Witches also manages to give the main stages a welcome magical run for their big state funded money, while sending out a message that things aren’t always as they seem, and what fun it is to take action. 4000 kids in the little seats, laughing dancing and fingers twinkling in glee can’t be wrong.


RMIT Union Arts presents
The Witches
Written by Roald Dahl, Adapted by David Wood

Venue: RMIT Kaleide Theatre | 360 Swanston St, Melbourne
Dates: Thursday January 3 – Friday January 18, 2008
Times: Monday to Friday 10:30am and 1:00pm
Tickets: $12
Bookings: Malthouse Box Office 9685 5111

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