Aberdeen theatre group Union Theatre will perform their latest show to north-east audiences next week.
Bringing The Roald Dahl Double: The Witches and George’s Marvellous Medicine to the stage of Aberdeen Arts Centre from Thursday September 26 to Saturday September 28, we caught up with one of the directors, Bruce Taylor, to chat all about the upcoming show.
How long have you been involved in Union Theatre group?
Union Theatre started up in 2018 as an extension of the SCDA. Our producer Emily Esson was the driving force behind the idea, aiming to start a company that would be inclusive of all ages and levels of experience.
I had directed Emily in a couple of productions over the past few years and it was through our friendship and the odd cake and wine night that we started brainstorming ideas.
Why did you decide to do these two Roald Dahl stories?
The main criteria for the debut production was that it had to have a large cast and universal appeal.
We wanted to provide optimal opportunities for both on and off stage. I certainly had a lot of input with regards to The Witches, as Roald Dahl has always been a hero of mine and The Witches stands out as my favorite Dahl story.
A few years ago, I discovered the play version (adapted by David Wood) and due to the size of the cast and the scope for a truly magical experience, The Witches had it all!
It was Emily’s idea to double up and put on the two plays and George’s Marvellous Medicine (also adapted for stage by David Wood) provided the perfect magical counterpart to The Witches.
Have you had to double cast the two shows?
No! We had an exceptional response to the casting call at the beginning of 2019 and we were really spoiled for choice. Three members of the George’s Marvellous Medicine cast double up as ensemble in The Witches. Who would pass up the opportunity to whack on a bald cap and scare some kids?
How many people are in the cast?How long have you guys been rehearsing?
George’s Marvellous Medicine has a cast of five and The Witches has 17. We kicked off rehearsals at the end of April, gradually amping things up as we get closer to show week.
Have you had to design your own costumes at all?
Not necessarily. Beyond the mice, chickens, frogs and such like, the characters that Dahl created are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances so we’ve been able to keep it quite simple, relying more on colour and the strength of character.
You’re working with a special effects artist? What role have they played in bringing the piece to life?
We have been working with local SFX and make-up artist Becca Winton for The Witches to figure out ways of making the grand high witch part horrifying and part chic, as well as making the itchy bald heads of the ensemble witches red and raw.
It has been a lot of fun playing with the ugly aspects of Dahl’s writing and we think the kids are going to love it.
We would be remiss not to mention our magician, Eoin Smith, who has advised us on everything from how to make a giant chicken to turning boys in to mice. It’s not everyday that you get to say you work with a magician so we’ve really enjoyed that!
Is the technical aspect of the show is just as important as the acting?
Absolutely! Myself and Peter (director of George’s Marvellous Medicine) have had some sleepless nights over some of the technical aspects. Peter has put a lot of work into making George’s wicked grandmother grow and burst through the roof of the house and the pay off should be something spectacular.
What are you most looking forward to seeing the cast take to the stage?
Energy! Both shows are super fun and dynamic. George will be kicking the evening off, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy and then the ensemble scenes in The Witches are a hoot, particularly the infamous ballroom scene where the witches have their annual general meeting. There are high speed chases, lots of cheering and a firework or two.
What can audiences expect from this show ?
The opportunity to relive some of the greatest children’s stories ever written and to escape from a world of Brexit and Boris with a more fun form of hi-jinx. Magic and mayhem are guaranteed.