The Roald Dahl classic, The Witches, is brought to life in a lively one-man 45-minute show at SunPAC. It’s the story of a heroic little boy’s fight against evil witches who are planning to squelch out all the children in the world.
Actor Christian Charisiou does a wonderful job of delivering a highly physical performance. By the end of the show his shirt was drenched with sweat and one could see why. He whirls between the many characters, giving each of them a distinct voice and physicality so that not even costume changes are needed to discern quickly who he is currently playing. His performance is very engaging- and there was none of the fidgeting that often occurs at children’s theatre. I note especially that ‘His Grand High Witch’ incarnation struck the right balance between funny and frightening that children love.
In terms of production values, the show is simple. There are a few lighting states, no set as such, and limited props- a paint tin, an old chest, a pot, a pan, an umbrella, and a sheet. Yet with this humble collection of things, Charisiou makes another world come to life. It’s lovely to see this engagement with imagination, and the whole show had the comfort and charm of being told like a bedtime story by your Dad (complete with all the funny voices).
David Wood’s adaptation of the novel does quite a good job of telling the original story in a short time, but I did wonder how many gaps I was unconsciously filling in since the book and the movie are both childhood favourites. I would have liked more backstory for the main boy, Luke, and his grandmother (in fact, the raspy smoker’s voice that Charisiou gave her made her less of the loving, kind grandmother she is meant to be, to get more into the delicious grottiness and naughtiness that Dahl’s stories delight us with.
The show is on at SunPAC, the new preforming arts centre that opened in Sunnybank last October. The venue is lovely- the new foyer is shiny, bright and very professional looking. There is plenty of parking and is near some great places to eat (e.g. Sunnybank Marketplace). I noted the bar was not open (understandable since I attended a matinee) but there was a small canteen outside that had snacks and drinks available, although you could only take water into the theatre. The theatre itself was… unexpected. It was basically a school hall with a few rows of chairs and its humbleness was at odds with the flashy exterior. I understand that the venue is versatile as it holds functions as well, but assembling tiered seating could easily be achievable. At 4’11” I could not see well past the two tall ladies in front of me, and one man in the front row very kindly sat on the floor so the child behind him could see. I also noted the small audience (around 60 people) and wonder what sort of advertising SunPAC does. I both live in the area and am heavily involved with theatre, and yet I had not heard of the venue before my invite to this show. Perhaps some target advertising on Facebook would give the venue more exposure. Some more advertising from the road would also help as it’s quite hard to tell what the venue is (although the SunPAC logo is prominent). All in all, the venue has fantastic potential and I’m always excited to see more spaces for theatre in Brisbane.