Review: The Worst Witch at the Cambridge Arts Theatre - “all female cast were dazzling”

The Worst Witch is showing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

The Worst Witch is showing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

The Worst Witch does a magnificent job of bringing Jill Murphy’s well-loved characters to life...according to my 10-year-old fellow reviewer Chloe Veneear, who has actually read the books.

Danielle Bird plays Mildred in The Worst Witch

Danielle Bird plays Mildred in The Worst Witch - Credit: Archant

Unlike me, who came to the show fresh and not really knowing what to expect. I did, however, leave the Cambridge Arts Theatre on Wednesday night feeling suitably rewarded for the time invested in what is essentially a production aimed at children.

But as we all know, book adaptations about witches and wizards that are aimed at the younger market can be quite popular with adults as well!

You could, in fact, be forgiven for making comparisons to Harry Potter, but Jill Murphy’s books predate J K Rowling by a mere 20 years.

Murphy’s main character is a witch called Mildred Hubble - an ordinary (non-witch) girl who mistakenly turns up to enrol at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. What unfolds is pure, good versus evil, story-telling at its best.

The Worst Witch at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

The Worst Witch at the Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

The all-female cast of 10 were dazzling. They played musical instruments, performed acrobatics, sung and danced and ran around the stage at a breath-taking pace that allowed the audience to feel the energy of excitable schoolgirls.

The show is fast-paced and has plenty of laughs and definitely takes on an element of pantomime with some clever and funny audience participation.

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Chloe was impressed with the show’s opening - the cast, in character, appear on stage before ‘curtain up’ and walk down into the theatre aisles to talk to members of the audience. She also makes a good point about the difficulty of producing magical spells in a theatre as opposed to creating special effects for television and film, which she thought had been done well. She loved the audience participation and being encouraged to join in with a spell was one of her highlights. She also found the references to ‘Cambridge’ funny.

Danielle Bird as Mildred manages to pull off the awkward, geeky girl who struggles to make friends with convincing aplomb. From the opening scenes, she successfully champions important lessons for youngsters about loyalty and friendship and being honest. Her nemesis is Ethel Hallow, played by the wonderful Rosie Abraham who sets out to discredit and generally make life unpleasant for poor Mildred from the start.

Consuela Rolle impressed with her beautiful voice and her sassy attitude.

But for me, the stand-out performance was that of Polly Lister who played Miss Cackle and her evil sister Agatha. The scene where she is both characters wearing one half of Miss Cackle’s clothes and one half of Agatha’s is hilarious and must have been exhausting for her to jump around the stage and remember who was who. Towards the end of the show she ‘stamps’ on a ‘kitten’, which is actually a sock. After a few gasps from the audience, she holds it up and points out that it is just a sock with buttons for eyes, and her comic delivery is superb.

Simon Daw’s set, too, deserves a special mention, as it can’t have been easy to make it collapse and then build it back up again.

A charming show that has enough magic and good versus evil to keep the youngsters entertained for the show’s two-hour duration.