Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has landed at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre and it’s a story that everyone must be familiar with: the Potts family, someone Truly Scrumptious and their flying car must defeat Baron and Baroness Bomburst, who have not only set their eyes on Chitty but have banned children from Vulgaria. As Director James Brining has said, Chitty has “broad appeal – a terrific adventure story for children, nostalgia and romance of older people, fantastic songs and a great big heart.”
Whilst some elements of the performance could have been slicker and those sitting in the upper-circle may find their view hindered at certain points, there is much to love and praise about this production.
Jason Manford plays the devoted father and eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts. The well-known and loved comedian brings a real warmth and authenticity to the role and provokes smiles and laughs from the audience. His performance of ‘Hushabye Mountain’ was both tender and haunting. The young duo Hayden Goldberg and Caitlin Surtees playing Potts’s children, Jeremy and Jemima, were sweet and confident on stage and there was a loveable family dynamic between them and Manford. Edinburgh marks Charlotte Wakefield’s debut as Truly Scrumptious, her voice certainly living up to her character’s name. ‘Lovely Lonely Man’ really allowed Wakefield to showcase her vocals. It is as a song that may have been under-appreciated in the past but stands out as one of the most beautiful moments in this stage production.
Phill Jupitus and Claire Sweeney are nauseatingly comical as Baron and Baroness Bomburst, exemplified in their duet ‘Chu-Chi Face’. Andy Hockley entertained the audience as the slightly senile Grandpa Potts. Jos Vantyler proved that The Childcatcher continues to inspire fear amongst people of all ages, aided by his menacing, larger-than-life shadow. Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige) are the campest spies ever, leaving the audience in stitches. Interesting use was also made of dual roles. For example, Ewen Cummins commendably plays Bill Coggins and The Toymaker, both characters acting as a friend and ally to Potts and co. Chitty herself was also a star of the show: everybody was waiting for the magical moment when she would fly and during the curtain call she even received her own “bow”.
The unseen hero of this production is Video Designer Simon Wainwright. His video projections transformed Simon Higlett’s set, based on a windmill, into a vast variety of locations. His designs were also crucial as they gave the impression of Chitty driving, sailing and flying. The sequence that accompanies ‘Hushabye Mountain’, which continues to extend over the stage until the sleeping children appear to be floating in water, is stunning.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh until October 16th before flying to Glasgow from October 19th-29th.
Photo credit: Festival Theatre