Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

3
Wed, 25th Jan 17
The touring version finally makes it to Bristol

This was a new production which had been rethought from the ground up; a great idea in principle but on this occasion I am really not sure it worked. The main issue was the use of projection technology. To work, the technology needs to operate seamlessly and enhance, rather than break, the core story telling.

In this instance we are talking large scale projection (think the Strictly Come Danicng floor projections) across the whole set providing both background scenery and enhancements to the set (like moving machinery and dream sequences). To work, this sort of system requires large flat areas of set, dimmed overall lighting, follow spots for the principles and meticulous setting up. What we got was an out of focus stage left area, a central projector that had a hissy fit and a wobbly scenery flat that made part of the projection move inappropriately - oh, and a shadow of the Child Catcher's foot hanging around for a while when he was winched off the stage. It could be that they'd had some issues as the show went up late and there was a big gap in the scenery stage right that I could see the lights of backstage equipment through (and I was near the back of the stalls). These are technical issues which became critical as the production had very little to fall back on if the projection was not perfect - those large plain flats and the lowered lighting were just not "musical theatre" enough by themselves. Curiously, when Chitty's wings failed to open that was far less of an issue, somehow we forgive physical issues easier.

Mind you, even had the technicals been perfect I don't feel that this production would have grabbed me as the songs, with the exception of the mechanical dolls, felt bolted on rather than part of the story and some sequences seriously lacked pace and engagement and at least one performance simply phoned in. The last Chitty I saw had some quite moving sequences, especially Hush-a-Bye Mountain, but this production left me cold.

Jason Manford (Caractacue Potts) and Charlotte Wakefield (Truly Scrumptious) did a good job of carrying the show forward and there were nice performances from Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as the panto-spies but otherwise I felt the production lacked the heart and soul it should have had - it is the end of a very long tour, but I doubt I would have found it much different when it started.

Disappointed.


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