Fun Fact: I absolutely hated Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child. I watched it when I was a child and the child catcher scared the living daylight out of me. Then, my mum convinced me to watch it in theatre with her, and HE CAME INTO THE AUDIENCE. It scarred me for life and I hadn’t watched it since. Then, I got invited to the press night* of the BLOC Productions show at the Bristol Hippodrome…
At first, I wasn’t going to go, because the child inside me is super petty. However, I reminded myself that:
1) Facing your fears is a good thing,
2) I am an adult, so the child catcher can’t catch me anymore (Did I outsmart him or what?)
I feel like most people have been the movie. However, if you haven’t, then Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the story of a poor inventor (Caratacus Potts) who buys an old car for his children to play in. He then fixes it up, and ends up using it to save his dad, who has been kidnapped by Vulgarian spies in a large misunderstanding.
BLOC Produtions are an award-winning amateur theatre company based in Bristol. So, honestly, the fact that they managed to perform at the Bristol Hippodrome as an amateur company is absolutely amazing.
I certainly wasn’t scared this time round! If I’m being honest, I found that the story was quite slow to start with, and it took a while to get to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that I remembered. Obviously, it was a touring production, so the set couldn’t be as elaborate as a normal production. However, I thought that the use of a blank screen and a projector didn’t work well with the theatrical lighting, and appeared quite washed out and unrealistic.
Despite this, once the production picked up it was thoroughly enjoyable, and came with a real feel good attitude.
Like most musicals, all songs were sung live with an orchestra. The orchestra was absolutely amazing, with arrangements that were full of body and sold the atmosphere. However, at times I found that they overshadowed the singers, and the songs could not be heard as well. Perhaps the microphones needed to be higher or the singers louder? Either way, I found myself struggling to hear the words through a couple of the songs.
This did, however, never apply to Grace Macdonald as Truly Scrumptious, and she was truly a standout performance. Her voice was beautiful, strong and emotive and I honestly could have heard her sing all day.
I touched on this with my mention of Grace in the previous paragraph, but honestly the main cast were great as a whole. Lily Beacon and Jack Spencer played absolutely adorable versions of the two children, and Chris Parslow was an incredibly loveable Grandpa. The ensemble cast maintained a cheery and upbeat attitude the whole way through, and Peter Cottell and Alex Milner played the bumbling idiot spies with great vigor. Also, special shoutout to David Evans as the toy maker. Though he only entered in the second act, he was so loveable.
The comedic chemistry between Ian Taylor and Lizzy Westney during their performance as the Baron and Baroness was absolutely perfect. They bounced off of each other beautifully and their songs were incredibly enjoyable.
As for Craig Rees-Cavendish as Caratacus Potts, I was worried as a big Dick Van Dyke fan that nothing would ever compare. However, I found that Rees-Cavendish put a fairly different spin on the character as a whole. His performance was endearing and fun-loving in a different way to Dick Van Dyke’s, yet still a great watch. Also, his performance of ‘The Old Bamboo’ was far more believable (There is no way that Dick Van Dyke could just stumble into a tap performance and know every single step. Even if he is the marvel that is Dick Van Dyke.)
ALSO, I cannot talk about the cast without mentioning the real life dog they used. I know that in the movie the Grandad has a dog, and I greatly appreciated that they used a real (Incredibly cute) dog in this production. Was it needed at all? Nope. Would I have had it any other way? Not at all.
After all these years I was confronted by my nemesis, the Child Catcher, and I have to say… It wasn’t that bad! I feel like every version (Yes, the whole 2 versions) of the Child Catcher that I’d seen before this has been creepy and made me fear for my life. However, BLOC took a different take. This child catcher was stranger, with his prosthetics and costume making him almost creature like. He moved as if he was some sort of deranged cat and, though he still had that creepy air about him, he was more comical than previous versions I’d seen.
I personally thought that this take was far better than previous versions. It got the point across and was in line with the story without, you know, scarring poor children like me for life.
One thing that is worth noting, is that this production makes great use of explosive flashes. During the introduction of the car and the moment that they’re being chased, they occur multiple times. I understand that they were done for dramatic effect, but honestly, I found them quite overwhelming. They were loud, caught you by surprise and actually gave my heart a mild startle. I can’t imagine how the actual children in the audience felt. They do give you warning before you go in, but be sure to prepare yourself for those.
I would! I thought that the cast and crew did a great job, and the fact that BLOC are an amateur theatre company makes it even more commendable. If you’re looking for a cute, non-scarring production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to take your kids to, I think this may be the one for you!
If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can still grab tickets for their productions at the Hippodrome here. Hurry!
Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? What are your opinions of the Child Catcher? (I genuinely would love to know. I can’t be alone in my hatred.) Let me know in the comments!
Lots of love,
Hey, I'm Jasmine Burke. A girl in her twenties fresh out of Uni that's trying to write in any way that she can. I go under the branch of "lifestyle" but honestly, you can find pretty much anything on here.
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