It is possibly Roald Dahl’s most fiendish tale, and it’s coming to the Theatre Royal.
York Theatre Royal
Thur Sept 1-Sat Sept 3 @7pm; Fri & Sat matinees @ 2.30pm
£12-£16, under 18s £8
Darkly funny classic The Witches is performed by a richly talented group of 16 to 19 year olds under the guidance of Youth Theatre director Kate Veysey and Jenna Drury (of Mud Pie Arts).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, The Witches sees a young boy and his grandmother staying at hotel on the coast. Little do they know this is the venue for the witches’ annual meet.
It marks the return to the main stage of the Youth Theatre since the building’s £6 million redevelopment.
We chatted to some of the cast and crew about taking this story to the stage.
So out of all of Roald Dahl’s books why pick The Witches?
What’s it been like working with this kind of age group?
They are here because they want to be here and they want to work, but also want to create something really special.
Is there a difference from working with younger children?
So asking them to be daft can be a big ask for some, particularly hard for Maddie [who plays the Boy] because it’s her mother getting her to be daft!
How do you think the younger members of the audience will react to the play?
And the other sort of child is the one who can’t keep still because they’re acting it out physically and they start shouting out without realising it, they’re living it at the same time as the actors; it’s fascinating.
But we want them to go home happy, so we’ve put a few things in place to make sure they go home laughing.
To create blood-curdling witches involves a lot of creative prosthetic effects and make-up. A crack team of backstage volunteers are lead by makeup and special effects guru Chloe Bower.
They have been charged with the task of bringing the ghastly characteristics of the witches to life, be it their freakishly long fingers or wart-riddled faces.
Designer Gem Greaves and lighting designer Alex Stafford-Marshall are on hand to help bring you frighteningly realistic characters and effects to life.
What’s it been like working on The Witches?
I wonder what they are going to be like with putting the bald caps on, bearing in mind that is going to be stuck to your face, so it can be quite uncomfortable.
It is entirely sealed, all the way round your forehead, all the way round your neck. So by the end of the day it can get quite sweaty, quite uncomfortable. It’s not very pleasant, but they all seem fair game for it.
What about the costumes?
And other than that it’s just been a charity shop job, we’ve got to be very careful with our budget. However all of the bald witch caps have been made by hand.
It has taken about two days per set, and we’re gonna have three sets altogether, so there will be about thirty bald caps used during the show, covered in sickly warts and veins. I’d love to prance around as a witch, not so sure about wearing the bald cap though, or the mask; quite uncomfortable.
We also caught up with some of the young stars of the show, to find out about them travelling to the dark side…
Do you both enjoy playing the evil characters?
Adam Kane (Witch 1): It’s brilliant. They are so much more interesting than normal characters.
So you wouldn’t rather play the hero?
Adam: You have to just constantly do what everyone expects you to do, smile going yeah it’s great, but we don’t get to kill any children!
How are you both coping with the make-up and prosthetics?
Adam: And it gets really warm under there. I mean we’re going to have a wig on top of that as well.
So it’s going to go our head, bald cap, wig. But you know, it’s good to have the practise.
Has the show been a personal challenge?
You admire the people you are working with so you just really want to do a good job of it.