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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Thursday 8th June 2023

DEFINITELY NOT A SWEET TREAT!

Last night I was back at Theatre Royal Plymouth for what was unfortunately my least favourite musical of the year. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory missed the mark on so many levels for me and felt like such a cheap production overall. It’s such a shame because I loved the book as a kid and was a huge fan of Roald Dahl. I wanted to be blown away but unfortunately the magic was severely lacking last night.


When I started writing my theatre reviews a year ago, my aim was to support the theatre industry and I always prefer to use the word ‘reviewer’ rather than ‘critic’ because I never go to a show with the intention to criticise. However I also promised myself that I would always be honest about my feelings and as much as I have agonised over the star rating, unfortunately I felt my personal integrity would not allow me to give this production a higher rating than 1 star.


There was so much potential with this show to dazzle and engage the audience but I felt it severely underdelivered on every aspect. The soundtrack was unfortunately forgettable. Of course the film favourites of Candyman and Pure Imagination were there but even these didn’t excite.

The best part of the production for me was the steampunk set. Unfortunately this was let down by low quality costumes and ill-fitting wigs. Regular readers of mine will know how much I love the technical aspects of a show but this was also a very poor production technically. The lighting design was uninspired and the video design looked cheap and outdated. The sound was also off with the singing often being drowned out by the orchestra and it seemed at times that microphones weren’t switched on in time so often you couldn’t hear the start of what a character was saying.


The story was incredibly slow at the start with the Bucket family scenes feeling very drawn out and boring. Songs were too long and it felt a million miles away from the Dahl story I had loved in my youth. As the family spoke they also used sign language which is great for accessibility and inclusivity but it seemed that this was sporadic and I was unsure why they were using it as none of the characters seemed to be deaf!


Unfortunately I felt let down by both Grandpa Joe and Charlie Bucket in the production. I was always wanting more from them which never transpired. Willy Wonka is such a fantastic character and I wanted to love him, but I felt Gareth Snook gave a mediocre performance. Wonka seemed to have lost his eccentricities and at times I felt Snook was more Fagin than Wonka! There were also diction issues as he sang and spoke so quickly at times it was hard to follow what he was actually saying. I constantly felt that he was trying too hard for laughs from the audience and was only getting small titters.


The whole production was over-acted and was verging on a pantomime, but without the jokes!


There were a few cast members that I feel stood out for me with the strongest performances coming from Kate Milner Evans as Mrs Gloop and Christopher Howell as Mr Salt. They both really embodied their characters and made them their own which was a joy to witness.


I also enjoyed Ewan Gillies as Jerry and Lucy Hutchinson as Cherry who had good comic timing and were the light relief in a production that struggled to get the laughs it seemed so desperate for.

The Oompa Loompas could have worked well in their reimagined form but were let down by costuming, direction and a lack of explanation. I learnt before the show that they were robots designed by Wonka to work in his factory and made in his own image but this was not explained at all during the performance.


It may sound harsh but I feel that this is almost an insult to the original text which I feel has been butchered and hashed together again. No-one can sum up my feeling of this production better than Grandpa Joe himself who states towards the end of the show “This tour has been a disaster”.

Maybe as I’m approaching my 40th birthday I’m turning into a grumpy old man, but this show definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth. The children in the audience seemed to enjoy themselves though and I guess that they are the target audience for this production.

As always, my comments are just my own personal opinion and I’m sure there will be many who disagree with me. I’m sure that this is also true when I give a 5 star review to a show! I always urge people to make up their own minds and if you’d like to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it’s at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 18th June and there are still tickets available for all performances. Head to www.theatreroyal.com to check availability and to book tickets.


I’ll be back at the Theatre Royal next week, but this time I’m in The Drum watching dance production What Songs May Do…


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


My ticket for this performance was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to review the production. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in my star rating or the content of my review.

CAST AT THIS PERFORMANCE:

Gareth Snook as Willy Wonka; Amelia Minto as Charlie Bucket; Michael D’Cruze as Grandpa Joe; Christopher Howell as Grandpa George / Mr Salt; Kate Milner Evans as Grandma Josephine / Mrs Gloop; Emily Winter as Grandma Georgina / Mrs Beauregarde; Leonie Spilsbury as Mrs Bucket / Mrs Teavee; Robin Simões Da Silva as Augustus Gloop; Emma Robotham-Hunt as Veruca Salt; Marisha Morgan as Violet Beauregarde; Teddy Hinde as Mike Teavee; Victoria Nicol as Mrs Pratchett / Ensemble; Ewan Gillies as Jerry / Ensemble; Lucy Hutchinson as Cherry / Ensemble; Patrick King as Ensemble; Jonathan Macdonald as Ensemble; Katherine Picar as Ensemble; Lewis Rae as Ensemble; Ty-Reece Stewart as Ensemble; Jodie Knight as Ensemble

RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 30 minutes, including interval


AGE GUIDELINE:

Recommended 7+

The mission of Theatre Royal Plymouth is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country.

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