REVIEW: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soars with fresh wit and energy

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, May 3-12. Also Crawley and Eastbourne later this year.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soars for a very happy plunge into the awfully familiar, but with plenty of fresh energy and wit chucked in as it embarks on a new tour, kicking off in Southampton. Later on, it will be playing The Hawth Theatre, Crawley from August 20-25; and The Congress Theatre, Eastbourne from November 19-24.

The opening scene is a bit of a mess, trying to tell far too much and not telling it terribly clearly, but once it settles down, it is soon into its stride for the story we all know and love, the tale of the wondrous car which is rescued and transformed by Caractacus Potts before it takes the whole family off for an awfully big adventure.

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Our Caractacus is Adam Garcia, and it’s a lovely, hugely skilled performance he gives, capturing everything he needs to about the eccentric inventor who slowly but surely loses his heart to Truly, suitably scrumptious from Ellie Nunn. Between them, they really make you sense the growing attraction between their characters – and the idea of a motherless family moving towards completion. Garcia and Nunn play it extremely nicely. Great fun too from Martin Callaghan as The Baron. But the real stars on the night – possibly even more so than the car itself – were Ayrton English and Jasmine Nyenya as the children, stage naturals both and delightfully natural.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (contributed pic)Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (contributed pic)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (contributed pic)

Possibly the whole thing dips mid first half when Chitty seems a long time arriving, leaving some of the songs, nicely done as they are, feeling rather like padding, Me Ol’ Bamboo in particular. It’s not exactly taking us anywhere. Ditto The Bombie Samba in the second half. Certainly spectacular, but again it feels as if it is making up time. But it’s an increasingly impressive second half nonetheless, huge on energy and great good fun – though surely we have moved beyond the point where if you want comedy villains, you simply give them dodgy German accents. It really does jar. Otherwise, it’s great to have Chitty back, and there’s no doubting the tingle when it takes to the air and flies…

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