Roald Dahl's School of Adventure

27th to 29th January 2020

Emilie Cullum-Kenyon | Park Hall Academy Theatre | Directed by Emilie Cullum-Kenyon

School productions are a hit-and-miss affair. They can be tedious at best and plain awful at worst as much-loved but talentless children forget their lines and struggle to remember where they should be standing on stage. Thankfully there is no shortage of talent in the latest theatrical offering from Park Hall Academy. ‘Roald Dahl’s School of Adventure’, a new musical written and directed by Head of Performing Arts Emilie Cullum-Kenyon, is a gloriumptious hit.

An impressively large and energetic cast of 70 students, ranging from Year 7 to Year 13, transport audiences to the weird, wacky and wonderfully strange world of Roald Dahl in this innovative and clever show which fuses two of the author’s most loved stories: ‘Matilda’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

Roald Dahl may have died nearly 30 years ago but his stories and playfulness with language live on in the imaginations of readers young and old. ‘Scrumdiddlyumptious’ and ‘Oompa Loompa’ are just two of the writer’s words which have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. A splendiferous achievement. ‘Roald Dahl’s School of Adventure’ manages to honour the wit and warmth of Dahl’s writing whilst at the same time bring some of his most loved characters together for the first time. Matilda Wormwood meets Charlie Bucket in this all-singing, all-dancing musical extravamaganza.

The framing device, an older Matilda narrating her own childhood story from a seat on stage, works nicely to welcome the audience into the school she attended in her younger and more vulnerable years. Lauren Fleming’s warm, bright voice suits the role perfectly. Her young counterpart, played by Year 7 newcomer Hollie-Mae Vincent, is a star in the making as the sweet but mischievous Matilda. The chemistry between her and Maddie Baker’s sweetly endearing Miss Honey delivers the most heart-warming moments of the night.

Sixth formers Charley McMahon and Cole Pearce bring just the right amount of crazy to the marvellously dysfunctional Mr and Mrs Wormwood, Matilda’s parents. Following in the tradition of Tim Minchin’s musical adaptation, Miss Trunchbull is played by a man: Tom O’Hagan is fearsome as the shotput-slinging headteacher who strikes fear into the hearts of her pupils.

Nancy Chance-Osman captures the innocent excitement of Charlie Bucket beautifully as the focus of the story shifts into her amazing chocolate factory adventure. There’s a convincing bond between her and Ben McGowran’s gentle, zimmer-frame wielding Grandpa Jo. Ellis Rankin gives a smooth, all-singing, all-dancing performance as the great chocolatier himself, Mr Willy Wonka.

There are great comic turns from the other golden ticket winners: Mia Sassano brings buckets of sass to her gum-chewing fanatic Violet Beauregarde, Annabel Ward captures the petulance of spoilt brat Veruca Salt and Katie Green nails TV-obsessed Mike Teevee’s American accent. Casting two students in the role of the boy gourmand is a master stroke: Alicia Roberts and Lily Wood are infectiously funny in their performances as Augustus and Gloop, overseen by Grace Dooley’s magnificently domineering German mother, Mrs Gloop. Strong support from Chloe Nokes as Mrs Teevee, Cara-Leigh Curry as Mrs Salt and Khloe Lutumba as Mrs Beauregarde makes certain that the journey through the chocolate factory is full of wonder.

A hugely talented ensemble of mini-Wormwoods, mini-Trunchbulls, Curly Whirlies and Naughty Children bring an extraordinarily varied range of musical numbers to life in style. Cleverly altered lyrics abound in fun versions of songs from favourites such as Abba, Queen and even the Greatest Showman. Not to mention Les Misérables and Little Shop of Horrors. A treat for musical lovers and a school production to be proud of; a real razztwizzler, as a certain Big Friendly Giant might say. Congratulations to everyone involved.

‘Roald Dahl’s School of Adventure’ was performed at Park Hall Academy from 27th – 29th January 2020