Children’s theatre needs to appeal to all ages. It has to be curious and filled with wonder for the wee ones, intelligent and challenging for those a tad older, mysterious and fast-paced for the teenagers – and still has to have something to appeal to all the adults for them to actually bring their children to the theatre.
Badjelly the Witch fulfils all those requirements. In spades.
It’s a delightfully funny story written by the incorrigible Spike Milligan (of The Goon Show fame) and is as good as any walk down memory lane. Tim (Maxwell Apse) and Rose (Comfrey Sanders) are off to look for their beloved cow Lucy but end up lost in the forest. They meet various characters on their travels including Binkle-bonk and Dingle Mouse (played by the wonderful Donogh Rees) and innocently wander into the path of Badjelly (Tim Raby) who is thrilled at the prospect of boy-girl soup.
It’s a rollicking ride for an hour that is well-paced and delivers plenty of laughs for all ages. Raby is the prefect actor for Badjelly (as well as a trouser robber, robin interpreter and Mummy amongst others) blending his famous “knickers, knickers, knickers” frustration with a delicious wickedness that has the audience giggling non-stop.
He’s joined by a committed cast of wonderful actors. Aaron Ryan is a particular favourite, especially as Mud-wiggle and Badjelly’s don’t-mess-with-me security guard, and Adam Burrell gets plenty of fan time as Jim the Eagle and the ‘Sun’ which comes shining with a special James Brown touch.
It’s a smart and whimsical production that celebrates 25 years of making children’s theatre and is a testament to the commitment of founder and artistic director Tim Bray. Mixing a 70s style with a dash of Monty Python, the creatives have clearly had plenty of fun in creating this larger-than-life version of Badjelly the Witch. Muso Nick Marshall might be off-stage but he’s every bit a part of this almost Brechtian version that pulls out all the stops – and laughs at itself along the way.
It’s a night of wholesome good fun and no matter how old, it’s a great show to take the kids along to these holidays.