Must-see theatre: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Psychologies Editor and Willy Wonka fan Suzy Greaves reviews Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal

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Must-see theatre: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is one of my all-time favourite books and, in fact, I named my son after its hero, so I was a little nervous about going to see the new West End show with my very own 10-year-old Charlie in tow. We had seen the films and were very opinionated about both (loved the Wilder version but hated Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka), so we were delighted to discover Douglas Hodge could definitely hold his own as Willy Wonka on stage – he was two parts twinkly, one part sinister – perfect! Special mention also to Nigel Planer as Grandpa Joe – quirky, funny and a surprisingly great dancer, we were willing him to get out of bed to accompany Charlie to the chocolate factory. Charlie was played by the cute 10-year-old Keir Edkins-O’Brien, who won my heart from the very first dance number when he tap-danced with his tongue between his teeth, concentrating on every step. I couldn’t get over the fact that he was such an accomplished dancer, singer and actor at the age of 10, when my son could hardly eat his ice-cream without spilling it down his front. I was worried about how they could pull off the effects of the Chocolate factory on stage – how could Augustus Gloop be sucked up the pipe? How could they get the squirrels to throw the spoilt Veruca Salt down the rubbish shoot? How on earth would they shrink Mike Teavee, and blow up Violet Beauregarde like a blueberry-shaped balloon? And the Oompa Loompas? And the Great Glass Elevator shooting out of the factory roof at the end? But with the show’s director Sam Mendes also directing the latest Bond movies, I suppose I needn’t have worried. The show built slowly in the first half as we were introduced one by one in inventive, creative ways to all the main characters as they won their golden tickets – with a hilarious take on the back story of the parents of the spoilt and horrible children of Dahl’s world. (I particularly loved Mike Teavee’s Mad Men-esque mother swigging cocktails at 11.) If you thought the first half was great, the second half was spectacular as we got to tour around The Chocolate Factory and slowly lost the children one by one in deliciously wicked ways. Violet’s show-stopping end and song was possibly my favourite. At times, I even forgot I was in a theatre, we were so transported. My son gasped and shrieked with joy beside me. When The Great Glass Elevator scene swung across the audience as the grand finale, we both shed a tear. A wonderful, moving and brilliant night. It surpassed every expectation for both Charlie’s namesake and me. Book tickets online hereLike the show on Facebook or follow it on Twitter. Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, directed by Sam Mendes:  Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London WC2B 5JF  |  Box Office: 0844 858 8877 Performances: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Wednesday & Saturday 2.30pm Ticket Prices: £25.00, £32.50, £39.50, £49.50, £67.50. Booking fees apply –