Reviews Published 3 August 2019

Review: The Worst Witch at Vaudeville Theatre

24th July - 8th September

Tea and sibling rivalry: Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom – aka Alice Saville and Hannah Greenstreet – report on Cackle’s Academy’s school production.

Hannah Greenstreet
The Worst Witch at Vaudeville Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan.

The Worst Witch at Vaudeville Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan.

*Miss Amelia Cackle and Miss Hardbroom are drinking tea in Miss Cackle’s office in the castle of Cackle’s Academy for Witches.*

Miss Hardbroom: Well Miss Cackle, another school year has drawn to a close and, with it, another school production. I really wasn’t sure about you hiring the Vaudeville Theatre to stage a play by Mildred Hubble of all our pupils, even if it is all part of your effort to increase our ‘diversity intake’ of girls from nonmagical families. Those banners proclaiming our commitment to diversity were a little over the top, though the design wizard Simon Daws did recreate our school hall exactly. We all know that where Mildred is trouble isn’t far behind. However, I am forced to admit it was entertaining and well-organised trouble.

Miss Cackle: Yes, the girls did a splendid job all round. As a stickler for tradition I nonetheless found their approach most, err, invigorating. The chanting in particular was a little unconventional but very rousing and beautifully done. Our chanting mistress tells me it’s something called ‘rock music’. I was relieved that they decided not to bring their cats; the glove puppets they used worked very well. Utterly adorable and far less potential for little messes backstage. And likewise, given Mildred’s tendency to crash her broom I’m very relieved that the flying interludes were all done with ingenious rope contraptions and not real magic. Still, there were some rather sticky moments: I’m quite glad to be back in the safety of the castle, enjoying a cup of tea and a bun with you…

Miss Hardbroom: Indeed, Miss Cackle. The girls acquitted themselves well with ‘the magic of theatre’, ably stage managed by leader of the broomstick procession Maud Spellbody. We don’t need real owls or pyrotechnics to impress – unlike some large budget West End shows about schools of witchcraft and wizardry. The first half of the play was a rather episodic race through Mildred’s disastrous first year at school, from accidentally ending up at Miss Cackle’s academy to saving the school from your evil twin sister Agatha, who would have turned us all into snails. What have I told you about cutting off relations with your sister? In the second half, Mildred’s arch-enemy Ethel Hallow does something very silly and puts the entire production in peril.

Miss Cackle: Didn’t she just? I am still most surprised by Ethel’s behaviour I must say, although this being a very nice school (as you say, *not* like other magical schools I could name) we did of course kiss and make up by the end. I really never thought I’d end up confronting the real Agatha in front of a West End audience, and I do worry that her little surprise appearance risks putting off potential pupils.

***A loud crash of thunder is heard, and a third witch crashes into the teatime gathering***

Agatha Cackle: And what if it does? I’m highly concerned that you’re trying to ‘diversify’ the school that is rightfully mine. Mildred Hubble is a disgrace. She’s the Worst Witch in every possible sense. She comes from a *spits on the ground* normal family. She’s clumsy, incompetent and repulsively cute, right down to those winsome little freckles. She wouldn’t know spooky if it exploded in her face in a flock of malevolant bats. And besides, if you opened up this school to everyone, how could we possibly cope with the exponentially high demand for places. On the evidence of tonight you only have about nine pupils. Imagine nine thousand tweenage girls and nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine black cats and one flea-bitten tabby careering all over this castle and *she pushes over the tea table* fighting for the crumbs from your afternoon buns!

Miss Cackle: Do something, Miss Hardbroom!!!

Miss Hardbroom: Miss Cackle I have had it up to here with your thinking the best of people getting us into scrapes. Maybe I will accept Agatha’s offer of Deputy Headmistress in the newly academised Cackle’s Academy for Witches after all.

*Agatha cackles evilly*

Agatha Cackle: See Amelia, even your will-they-won’t-they lesbian subtext that runs through the entire book series can’t save you now.

Miss Cackle: Oh Hecate, how could you!

*Maud Spellbody, Mildred Hubble and Enid Nightshade burst into Miss Cackle’s study*

Girls: We’ll save you, Miss Cackle, because tolerance and diversity and working together are important values to teach through a children’s show.

Miss Hardbroom: Girls, I had the situation under control. Why do these girls always assume they know more magic than their teachers?

Mildred Hubble: I will save the day through my natural charm and ineptitude.

Enid Nightshade: I’ll provide a musical narration because I have the best singing voice.

Maud Spellbody: I will sacrifice myself for Mildred for no reason.

Agatha Cackle: I will turn you all into snails.

Miss Cackle: Wait, before you do Agatha, may I tempt you to a cup of tea. To celebrate your victory.

Agatha Cackle: Well, I don’t mind if I do, thank you.

*Agatha takes the cup and drinks. She starts to laugh hysterically. So hysterically she cannot move, she is rolling on the floor.*

Agatha Cackle: Ha, ha, ha what an excellent play it was. We really need to plan our next collaboration.

*Miss Hardbroom steps in and traps Agatha in a handily positioned magic mirror. Agatha, still cackling, bangs on the mirror in fury.*

Miss Cackle: I slipped her some laughing potion, girls. Always helps to have some up your sleeve in case of emergency. Certainly an eventful day. Anyone for tea and buns?

The Worst Witch is on at Vaudeville Theatre till 8th September. It really is great fun. More info here

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Hannah Greenstreet

Hannah is a writer, academic and theatre critic. She is London Reviews co-Editor for Exeunt, with a focus on fringe and Off-West End theatre. She is researching an AHRC-funded PhD on contemporary feminist theatre and realism at the University of Oxford. She is also a playwright and has worked with Soho Writers' Lab, the North Wall Arts Centre, and Menagerie Theatre Company.

Review: The Worst Witch at Vaudeville Theatre Show Info


Directed by Theresa Heskins

Written by Emma Reeves

Cast includes Rosie Abraham, Danielle Bird, Molly-Grace Cutler, Meg Forgan, Rachel Heaton, Rebecca Killick, Emma Lau, Polly Lister, Megan Leigh Mason, Lauryn Redding, Consuela Rolle

Original Music Luke Potter

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