Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Newcastle Theatre Royal

4th June 2024

Ian Flemings’s much loved story about a flying race car has been a staple in many family homes for years – especially at Christmas time and this is not the first tour of the production in the UK. Nevertheless, I was very excited to see this revived tour at Newcastle Theatre Royal which follows hot on the heels of another festive favourite in The Wizard of Oz. 

Caractacus Potts Jr (Adam Garcia) is a failed inventor and single father to daugher, Jemima (Jasmine Nyenya) and son, Jeremy (Ayrton English) who all live a rather quaint life in a rural English town somewhere down south. 

After he creates a sweet which you can toot and a flute you can eat he approaches local businessman and noble Lord Scrumptious (Hadrian Delacey) to try and earn some money with disastrous results. He is rather taken by the Lord’s daughter, Truly (Ellie Nunn) and when he unexpectedly comes into some money, he is able to buy the clapped out former racecar so beloved by his children and sets to work on creating the eponymous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so named because of the sounds it makes.

Thereafter, the family with Truly, embark on a fantastical adventure which defies all logic and requires an unlikely suspension of belief because of the fact that not one part of this particular adaptation even attempts to suggest that the Potts family have actually fallen asleep on the beach and are collectively dreaming.

It is very clear from the outset of this production that all the budget for the effects were reserved to provide a magnificent Chitty and this evening adults and kids alike were enthralled by the wonderful creation that took to the stage towards the end of the first half and quite rightly got the top billed bow at the end. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design was an absolute joy, as it always the case, although I think the low smoke struggled a little this evening with the expanse and draughtiness of the Theatre Royal’s stage. 

All of the Sherman Brother’s exquisite songs are present in this production with some additional ones that were not in the movie and it is all the better for them. The Bombie Samba is an absolute joy which is performed with great energy and gusto by the Baroness (Jenny Gayner) alongside her rotund husband the Baron played with much fun by Martin Callaghan. 

The focus of many a young person’s nightmares, and certainly mine, is the Childcatcher played in this tour by Charlie Brooks. While she looked amazing in her make up and costume, and having seen her portray a wonderful baddie in ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ I felt Ms Brooks’ talents were under-utilised in this production.

The child actors Jasmine and Ayrton as Jemima and Jeremy were both delightful and there was a lovely chemistry between them, their father, Truly Scrumptious and, of course, the quite mad, zany but adorable Grandpa Potts (Liam Fox) who was clearly living his best life on the stage tonight.  

The production skips along at a fair old rate and there was no squirming in the seats or loss of interest from the many younger members of the large audience this evening. Clocking in at around 2 hours and 40 minutes (including interval), it is a delight to watch and you come out of the theatre with skip in your step and happy memories of childhood. 

This is very much Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – The Pantomime with over the top characters, bumbling side kicks, bangs and flashes, magic, some groan-worthy gags, and a love story, but it is none the worse for it. 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle until 8th July.

Reviewed by Stephen Stokoe

*we received press tickets for this performance to attend

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