Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wonderfully Weird

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wonderfully Weird

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

Sunderland hosted the European premiAre last night of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on tour. David Whetstone was in the audience.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Sunderland Empire until March 4

It's not every night, or even decade, that Sunderland hosts a European premiAre, so last night was a big night indeed.

There was a bit of red carpet across the pavement outside the theatre, mayoral regalia was much in evidence and the Wearside glitterati were all a-sparkle.

Only director Adrian Noble looked pensive before curtain up, as well he might. This is a massive, multi-million-pound show, and taking it on the road ( even after a successful London run ( is a gamble.

Sunderland has had to go without its panto to make room for it, but I wasn't too far into the show before I started thinking that panto ( for all its peculiarly whacky Englishness ( has absolutely nothing on this.

A children's tale by Ian Fleming, creator of 007? Everything I've read about the man leads me to suspect you wouldn't have wanted him as a babysitter ( so how weird is that?

Well, this weird is the answer.

Here we have a penniless inventor chappie and his Raj-fixated dad bringing up two kids in a windmill in "the beautiful English countryside" and coming up against two comically Teutonic fellows from the fictional country of Vulgaria ( which any 'Allo 'Allo fan would recognise as Germany in very dubiously dictatorial mode.

But decades of the film, with its catchy soundtrack, has inured us to all this nonsense, and the minute the band struck up last night the hands were clapping. Actually, try not clapping to the Chitty theme tune. It's a challenge.

You can see where the money was spent. The sets and the elaborate props are big, bright and generally excellent. The whole enterprise radiates hugeness and attention to detail. …

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