MTV Review: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Sam Mendes brings Dahl's confection to the West End stage...
Sam Mendes's production of the Roald Dahl classic is a fairly straightforward adaptation, unlike Matilda's more adventurous re-imagining, but is none the worse for it.
After a great animated film by Quentin Blake showing how chocolate is made, the play's first half opens on a junk-yard in the shadow of the looming Wonka Factory where we meet a young Charlie Bucket (Louis Suc for this performance) and his impoverished family, led by his bed-bound but eternally optimistic and imaginative Grandpa Joe (Nigel Planer).
After Charlie initially fails to win a coveted Golden Ticket, which would have granted him a peak within the walls of Wonka's mysterious confectionary plant, an innovative suspended TV set is used to introduce us to the four lucky winners. While the lyrics to some of these characters' introductory songs got a little lost due to the fast pace, the device worked well and lays the ground for the eagerly-awaited second half.
Here we (and Charlie and his Grandpa) finally get to enter Wonka-world, with its psychedelic sets, judgemental squirrels and, of course, Oompa-Loompas.
We won't give too much away about what happens next, but it does involve some great sets, a welcome revival of the 1971 film's Pure Imagination in an otherwise original score and, best of all, Douglas Hodge as Wonka himself.
Sticking closer to Dahl's original creation than either of Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp's movie portrayals, Hodge strikes the perfect balance between whimsy and menace, and pulls the rest of the cast along (physically, at some points).
Admittedly the lack of truly stand-out original songs prevents this adaptation from really reaching its full potential, but the cast, sets and overall joyful feel make it a golden ticket indeed.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London. Now booking until May 31, 2014.
More info at: charlieandthechocolatefactory.com