The Witches (Leicester Curve)
Nikolai Foster brings Roald Dahl's classic book to life at the Curve
Stop whatever you're doing. Go carefully now but look at any woman nearest to you and perhaps see her in a new light because she might just be a witch.
At least that's what Boy is told, setting in motion the story of a world where people aren't what they seem in Nikolai Foster's terrific imagining of The Witches, a 1983 children's book penned by Roald Dahl.
While Curve's Christmas menu this year has Oliver! in its main house, the focus falls on another young chap in its studio show co-produced with Rose Theatre, Kingston, before touring. Fox Jackson-Keen as Boy shows his Billy Elliot pedigree in a performance bursting with energy whether it's a backward somersault, guitar playing or the lightest of comedy routines with his friend Bruno (the excellent Kieran Urquhart).
Cared for in Norway by his grandmother following the death of his parents, Boy must return with her to England where she warns him to beware the notorious English witches and their master plan to rub out children from the face of the Earth by turning them into mice.
In lesser hands the whole thing might be as hideous as vermin heading north up your trouser leg but fear not, this is playful, inventive stuff that will charm the grown-ups and have children cheering with delight. Foster has his seven-strong cast play it fast and light (indeed there's something to be said for Christmas shows not going on too long. My boy Jack not only loved the production but had time for fish and chips afterwards. Result).
This, his first family show as artistic director at Leicester, sees Foster pool the talents of Dougal Irvine as composer and Neil Henry as magic consultant with Isla Shaw, whose costumes and set are witty and impressive - her sight gags playing on the idea of how big a banana or chocolate would be to a mouse got an equally big laugh on press night.
As for the cast, there is not a weak link among it - Karen Mann as Grandma (a calm, beautifully measured performance) and Sarah Ingram (a laugh-out-loud Grand High Witch) are especially good.
And so to the writer. Ah yes. Not Mr Dahl but David Wood whose adaptations and original stories have given pleasure to millions of theatregoers and readers for the best part of 50 years. The script is more than 20 years old but has the freshness of something crafted 20 days ago. Not a word is wasted in this funny, highly entertaining show illuminating once again why excellent theatre is alive and well in the Midlands.
The Witches runs at Leicester Curve until 10 January.