It’s a film a lot of people grew up with. Sometimes we’d plead with our parents to watch ‘just one more time’ when they’d dare to suggest something new.
Although released in 1971, it proved to be a part of a string of generations’ lives, from grandparents to parents, to children. And now, 50 years later, it comes to The Lowry to become a part of the next generation, with the original, toe-tapping songs we know and love, and some new music and lyrics by Neil Bartram.
The three newly-orphaned children, Paul, Carrie, and Charlie (Conor O’Hara) Rawlins, are evacuated from wartime London to Pepperinge Eye in the countryside, where they are reluctantly taken in by Miss Eglantine Price (Dianne Pilkington).
She’s an eccentric character, clad in bright purple from head-to-foot, and, after catching her flying on a broomstick that night, discovered to be a witch. She convinces the children to stay, helping her find the next spell in her witch training, which has been cut short by the head of her ‘witch school’ (Mr Browne) due to the bombings in London.
Miss Price takes her flying bed to London (only the best way to travel), to find Mr Browne. He is revealed to be nothing more than a charismatic showman, who didn’t believe the spells to be real.
He joins the group and embarks on an adventure under the sea to dance with fish (of course), to a King lion who is won over by Mr Browne’s magic (obviously), to make an army out of knights’ armour and old military uniforms, and chase a Nazi invasion away(why wouldn’t they?!).
The performance is reliant on the cast, with props and set held by people to create a room: someone holds a light, acting as a wall, while someone beside them takes Miss Price’s coat, acting as a hook. It’s creative, immersive, and brilliant.
The magic isn’t all revealed though – during the first flight of the bed, there were the excited whispers of children: “How are they doing that? How are they making it fly?”. Lighting and prop trickery bring out the nostalgic magic most remember, dousing it with a fresh coat of paint, and bringing it to life for the stage. Dianne Pilkington takes the reigns of the show by holding her voice even through the trials and tribulations of acrobatics and balancing herself on a flying broom, performing lyrics with the utmost professionalism, and acting, sometimes dancing, all the while. A true triple-threat.
Whether you remember the film’s release, grew up with it on VHS, or watch it for the first time on stage, it’s well worth it. With spectacular colour, lighting, movement, and set and prop design, the stage is making a good home for the story, making sure to pay homage to lines used in the film, and immersing the audience into the spectacular world of Eglantine Price. It’s a pop-up book of nostalgia, paying homage to the original film, and making magic all the more real, in true Disney Style.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is at The Lowry until the 19th of March. Tickets are available on The Lowry’s website.