witch tops 

The Worst Witch

Coventry Belgrade


Generations of young ladies had graduated from Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches and their own spellbound offspring were probably already having broom lessons at their alma mater long before that young whippersnapper Harry Potter had set out for that new fangled Hogwarts.

Jill Murphy’s books first cast their spell in 1974 and were still going strong with First Prize for the Worst Witch published last year and this new stage show will delight and bewitch her millions of fans.

Written by Emma Reeves, and directed by Theresa Heskins we start with Miss Cackle herself, a delightfully dotty Polly Lister, welcoming us to the school play written by the pupils themselves, an idea which does not seem to sit well with form teacher Miss Hardbroom, who seems to find laughs and happiness hard to come by in a stern performance Rachel Heaton.

The heroine of this school play – and the books - is Mildred Hubble, who arrives in the first year’s intake by accident, having been on her way to another school. 


Fly me to the moon . . . Mildred turns simple broom handling into a trapeze act

It is a lovely performance from Danielle Bird, who grabs the audience and takes them along with her from the start - and it is not the first time she has played a witch, incidentally, having played the role in Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe. She was last seen in the Midlands two years ago, by the way, as the brilliantly funny manservant Drudge in a five star production of The Hypocrite at the RSC.

Along with best friend Maud, played by Rebecca Killick, she provides a display of broomstick flying which in reality is a comedy, circus trapeze act by the pair, very funny but demanding a great deal of aerial skill - and all done without a safety line.

All the book characters are there with the practical joker Enid, Consuella Rolle, who it seems has been expelled from everywhere else, and of course the school snob, with a nasty streak a mile wide, Ethel, Mildred’s vindictive, sly, rival and one of the Hallow dynasty of witches, She is trying to get Mildred thrown out and is played with a suitably poisonous tongue by Rosie Abraham who has some wonderfully superior exchanges with the audience. Not so much stand up as put down.

Her loyal sidekick is Drusilla, played by Emma Lau, but they are little angels compared to Miss Cackle’s evil twin sister Agatha, with a similarity quite remarkable, probably as she is also played by Polly Lister. There is a moment when the pair confront each other as Agatha tries to take over first the school and then the world which has plenty of laughs – and perhaps pays a small homage to Tommy Cooper.

Much of the second act is taken up with the rescue of Miss Cackle and the defeat of her evil sister with some  clever video projection (Simon Beckett), explosions and collapsing set (Simon Daw).

Then there are the other staff and pupils, who double up as the excellent band with chanting teacher Miss Bat, on keyboards, guitar and cello, PE teacher Miss Drill on drums, guitar and clarinet and Meg Foran as classmate Fenella on bass. Being able to act is juts a start in today’s theatre.

The musical has some good catchy numbers with ballads, pop and R&B (Luke Potter) and although the special effects are hardly Star Wars, they are well done, clever and very effective, and let us not forget, the target audience here is youngsters who still have that greatest special effect of all – imagination.

It’s lively, fast paced, great fun and, although I must admit to having never read any worst witch books, young fans who seemed to know these things, were chattering away excitedly and happily as they left. My grandson, a seasoned theatregoer these days, loved it, and so did I.

He reckoned it was worth a five, and as he was the target audience, who am I to disagree? It’s a great, polished show for youngsters – and mums, dads, grans, grandads and anyone else who takes them. Cracking entertainment and one of the best, all round family shows I have seen in quite a while.  To 27-04-19.

Recommended age 7+

Roger Clarke


The broomsticks will be crash landing again when The Worst Witch arrives at Birmingham Hippodrome 22-26 May. 

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