Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Review

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Golden tickets to a better life are a funny thing.

Find one, and you’ll feel like the luckiest boy on this earth.

Just ask Charlie.

Charlie Bucket is a small kid with some pretty big dreams and an even bigger imagination.

Seeing as the Bucket family he’s been born into can’t afford to buy even the simplest pleasures in this life, lucky for him that he does.

So, in his parents broken down home where his four grandparents all live in the same bed – which is probably what Bullingdon Dave had in mind when selling us his idea for our Big Society – Charlie lets his imagination off his leash.

But there’s always one, simple thing that inspires Charlie more than anything else: chocolate.

And, to be more precise, the chocolate made by one Willy Wonka.

The legend around this infamous and reclusive chocolatier has grown more fantastical with each passing year.

But now all will be revealed to a lucky few, as Wonka’s building a new chocolate factory in Charlie’s town and offering five lucky folk the chance to peek behind the curtain and see how Willy makes his inventive chocolates.

But there’s only one way in to this chocolate factory; you need to find a golden ticket that Wonka’s hidden away in five of his spectacular chocolate bars.

Will Charlie’s dreams of being one of the lucky few to find a golden ticket come true?

Well, the title might just give that part away.

Box office busting director Sam Mendes chose to follow up his take on James Bond by going back to his theatrical roots with this big stage incarnation of the classic Roald Dahl children’s book.

Naturally, I’ve never read the book, I don’t think; but I have seen the wonderful Gene Wilder inspired film from the seventies, as well as the rather less inspiring Johnny Depp remake.

So in spite of my literary deficiency, I was well set for what was to come.

Beginning with an animated scene from regular Dahl collaborator Quentin Blake, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory zooms along through all those elements fans have come to love.

There’s the grimy, industrial side of skid row life that the Bucket family find themselves in, which seems a little closer to home than ever these days, the disturbing sight of four old folk sharing a bed, which was even more disturbing as a child, before we’re introduced to the madly colourful and contrasting world of Willy Wonka.

The thought of Mendes making do with just one set for this play is about as far-fetched as a race of brightly coloured little people running around making chocolate for us, and the Skyfall director clearly spent most of his budget on the numerous and highly impressive set designs used throughout.

And those Oompa Loompa types become an integral part of the more spectacular sets wheeled out after the interval, though I was a little disappointed that Mendes employed real sized folk and some clever puppetry effects instead of the half men and women I remember from my youth.

Not sure I’m allowed to say that these days.

The cast are suitably, ah, suited to their roles, with some old boys and girls including Nigel Planner playing the four grandparents, a number of spoilt brat types making up the numbers as Charlie’s competitors and then there’s the cute and adorable Charlie himself.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

But the one man everyone’s come to see is a certain Willy Wonka, which is kind of a thankless task courtesy of the mac daddy brilliance Gene Wilder brought to his incarnation of the mad chocolatier.

Played by Douglas Hodge, this version of Wonka felt more like a Dr Seuss cat in the hat type fellow than anything else, but with his brightly coloured attire and powerful voice still hit most of the right notes.

Which brings us on to the music, and the wholly new score Mendes has used for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

It’s really hard to compete with some of the classic songs you know and love from the non Johnny Depp shaped film of Dahl’s book, and that’s how I felt about most of the tunes on show here.

This message is really brought home in the final song Imagination, that you will recognise and love from the original Gene Wilder film, as well as a certain glass elevator flying around the stage.

So Charlie And The Chocolate Factory isn’t quite the golden ticket I’d hoped for, but it sure is a fun trip til you can find the real thing.

Or even as just another distraction to try and get over losing your genuine golden ticket.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2013