“Your life’s about to change now, so don’t get left behind!”

Credit: Johan Persson

Truer words couldn’t have been spoken with regards to tonight’s performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Hilarious and heartwarming, this show truly has it all. Playful Productions has successfully updated the classic tale of Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka in ways that make it fresh for modern audiences, while still maintaining the warmth and charm we expect.

Credit: Johan Persson

Having only seen the Broadway production and not the Original iWest End production, I knew there would be some changes between the versions; however, both shows were distinct enough that these changes didn’t feel out of place (though I did selfishly miss the more dramatic demise of Veruca Salt in the American adaptation!). One of the most obvious differences is that Charlie is a little girl, which is so heartwarming, as I’m sure there would be many young girls in the audience connecting themselves closely with her character. The team of Charlies is made up of both girls and boys, which is a brilliant new decision for the show.

In addition, I think it is wonderful that Mrs Bucket uses sign language when she spoke, to which any character that interacted with her would respond in the same way. It’s small but impactful moments like this that push the theatre world towards a more accessible future, and again I’m sure this makes a huge impact to many children in the audience. Also, on a very personal note, I was really excited when I realised that the Buckets were Northern – besides Billy Elliot, you very rarely hear Northern accents in musical theatre! 

Credit: Johan Persson

Another highlight from the show is Gareth Snook as Willy Wonka, who gives a deliciously mad performance as the eccentric, unpredictable chocolatier. Snook has great energy, and in many ways addressed the audience more so than the characters themselves; however, this does not seem unnatural in the context of the show in the slightest. One could easily imagine Wonka rambling on endlessly to no one in particular, so we the audience reflected his inner monologue.

Credit: Johan Persson

I was also incredibly impressed with the fact that the grandparents and Charlie’s mother also play the parents of the other children. These transitions and quick changes are so seamless that my friend didn’t even realise that they were the same performers until I pointed it out to her in the interval. And of course, the ensemble of this show is incredible, particularly in Act Two with the Oompa Loompas, which in this version are robots, removing any of the controversial aspects of Dahl’s original version.

This production is as enjoyable for adults as it is for children, with a number of jokes interspersed throughout the play that would not be recognised by younger audiences but would make their parents chuckle.

Credit: Johan Persson

Overall, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as brilliant for families as it is for general theatre lovers. This show is filled with humour, excitement and, most importantly, imagination.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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