We were really excited to go and see Winnie and Wilbur at The Rep Theatre Birmingham. The play is written my Mike Kenny and based on one of our favourite book series by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. The girls loved the picture books, and have now moved on to reading the chapter series which is perfect for early readers as it really builds their confidence and is laugh-out-loud funny.
Of course, when you are seeing one of your favourite books transformed into a play there is always a worry that it won’t meet your expectations. Winnie and Wilbur did not disappoint. It was riotous family fun, with lots of high jinx and magic to delight young theatre goers. This would be the perfect first theatre trip for a young child. The jokes, songs and plot line are pitched exactly right and it is a really good length for their concentration spans, being about 90 minutes with a short interval in the middle. The play is full of energy and exuberance. I couldn’t believe how enthusiastic the cast were at 11am. We came away buzzing and it was a wonderful start to the Easter holidays.
The storyline is based around a couple of Winnie the Witch books, mainly Winnie’s Birthday Party. This is our favourite book and was exactly right for a young audience, who can all identify with planning a party.
Winnie, played by Sophie Russell, is delightful as Winnie. She is just as joyful and childlike as the books. Wilbur is adorable, and the girls wanted to take him home. One of their favourite parts was when he is transformed into different colours so that Winnie doesn’t keep tripping up over him. He is more of a driving character in the play and it was lovely to see him getting a voice and more of a personality. His love of cheesecake meant we had to make some this weekend as the twins had never tried it before.
Throughout the play, there are several good jokes, which will amuse parents as well as children. The ensemble is made up of Winnie and WIlbur as well as four other actors who take all the other parts. The running joke is that they can never be at the party at the same time. The set and props are used to create real sparks of magic and I loved hearing all the gasps of wonder from the audience. A step ladder is transformed into a flying broomstick, all the guests disappear into a cupboard, and a bike is made from LED lights. At the party balloons and bunting appear, as if by magic, and the magical cake with everyone’s favourite flavours is really spectacular.
The Rep Theatre is an excellent venue for young children and even offers some relaxed performances. I love the fact that there are a variety of refreshments at the interval. You can buy ice cream, but there are also small chocolate bars and even healthier choices of nuts and fruits all at reasonable prices.
There is still time to go and see Winnie and Wilbur as it’s on until the 22nd April, tickets are from £10. There are also several amazing looking family shows coming up, with The 101 Dalmations in November and Nativity the Musical at Christmas.
Picture credits: Graeme Braidwood
Disclaimer: We were given the tickets for the purposes of this review.