ROALD Dahl's fantasy novel The Witches has been popular with adults as well as children since it was published in 1983, so it's not surprising that a stage adaptation by playwright David Wood that Hunter Drama is presenting at the Civic Playhouse in the April school holidays has been selling briskly.
The story has a Boy (whose name is never revealed), encountering a team of witches when his Norwegian grandmother, who has cared for him since his parents died in an accident, takes him to a British seaside hotel for a holiday.
The witches have come to the hotel for their yearly meeting, and the Boy hears their leader, the Grand High Witch, telling the others that she has developed a potion that will turn children into mice and how the witches can get the children to consume the potion. When she transforms him into a mouse, he comes up with a plan to make the witches mice, and seeks the aid of another boy, Bruno Jenkins, whose passion for lollies led to him becoming the first mouse.
The Witches will have a mix of daytime and early night sessions from Wednesday, April 14 to Saturday, April 17, with some performances reserved for schools and other junior institutions.
The production has a cast of 26 actors, aged 10 to 18, who are looking forward to staging the play as the characters include puppets as mice and many of the movements in the 70-minute running time are brisk. And the director, Jo Roberts, said that her husband, Allon Silove, has written some bright songs for the show.
Samuel Lane, who plays the Boy, is certainly eagerly waiting for the opening performance as this is his first major role in the five years he has been with Hunter Drama.
And he really enjoys Roald Dahl's stories because he has appeared in several adaptations of them, including a minor lead role in Fantastic Mr Fox which David Wood also adapted for the stage.
The other major male character, Bruno, is portrayed by Kai Wheatley. Kai notes that Bruno is mean and doesn't care about anyone else.
And, as he is greedy, he is lured into the company of the witches when they promise him candy and becomes the first child to be converted into a mouse.
Interestingly, two sisters who are members of the cast, Shyla and Layla Schilbert, play opposing characters. Shyla is the Grand High Witch and Layla is the Grandmother.
Jo Roberts said that the staging team discussed the age of Shyla, based on what is mentioned in the script, and decided that she is about 300. "But she certainly doesn't look that old," she noted with a smile.
The production has 20 witches, who are mainly all in black-and-white garb and have the same wigs. The one exception to that appearance is the Grand High Witch who wears bright purple clothes.
The staging team decided to set the play in the 1940s, as that decade was noted for its eye-catching garb. And audience members will also see a lot of colourful settings, projected on a large background screen. Likewise, renowned lighting technician Jacob Harwood has helped to bring out the very different natures of the various places.
The sessions which are open to all people are at 7pm on Thursday, April 15, 10am and 7pm on Friday, April 16, and 10am, 2pm and 7pm on Saturday, April 17. The show is recommended for people aged six and over.
Tickets, $35, can be booked through the Civic box office, 4929 1977.
Celebrating the Wiggles
IN the first week after the April school holidays The Wiggles will have two performances of their We're All Fruit Salad Tour! at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre at Broadmeadow.
The show is a celebration of The Wiggles 30 years as a performing team since their first show in 1991 and is being toured throughout Australia after last year's COVID 19 restrictions led to it being postponed.
The show, which has a running time of about an hour, has other events attached to it, such as a Meet and Greet session before the 10am session, which will give participants a chance to meet The Wiggles backstage at about 8.30am and see how they get together to decide how they will put together their shows. If people don't come at the right time they won't be able to participate in the pre-show event.
Another special package, the Big Red Car Experience, will enable buyers to get seats in the 12 front rows, get priority entry into the venue, get an exclusive VIP Tour gift, and get a commemorative VIP sticker.
There will also be a VIP Merchandise Pack that will enable buyers, among other things, to get a drink voucher.
Note that some of these events do not include a show ticket, with it having to be bought separately.
This show will see Emma, Lachy, Simon and Anthony singing and dancing around Australia with all their Wiggly Friends: Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus, and their newest Wiggly Friend, Shirley Shawn the Unicorn.
The We're All Fruit Salad Tour! features Wiggly classics and new songs.
Founding member, Blue Wiggle Anthony Field, notes that the show will feature a variety of dance styles and performances that go with different styles of music. He said: "You'll hear all the classic songs you love, plus new ones!"
Buy tickets through Ticketek.
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