Review: A spoonful of theatre magic
Theatre: Mary Poppins, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin
Jane and Michael Banks are unruly children, causing endless bother to a succession of nannies. Child actors Isabelle Methven and Harvey Shoesmith-Dean give winning performances on opening night as the spoilt pair. Chief amongst their problems is the fact that their father is too busy working in a bank to bother with them at all. George Banks (Milo Twomey) is a horrible patriarch, derides his wife's former career as an actress, generally ignores and belittles his kids and is sometimes rough with them. Then, Mary Poppins arrives, spreads her magic around and changes everyone.
The stage musical was created in 2004, based on the Disney film and the original stories by PL Travers, and directed by Richard Eyre. It comes to Dublin for the first time and is a good opportunity to see Irishman Bob Crowley's spectacular Tony Award-winning design. Magical effects work a treat, including the wrecking and unwrecking of the kitchen; statues coming to life and giant props appearing from small bags. The use of wires to fly kites and humans is brilliant. Mary Poppins is an extraordinary creation and Zizi Strallen gives her otherworldly poise and creates theatrical moments with deft use of body language at every turn. She is joined by a charming and versatile Matt Lee as the streetwise Bert.
The show gallops along at a great pace, doing more than justice to all the crowd-pleasing numbers like Supercalifragilistic… and Chim Chim Cher-ee. Dance routines are top notch, as are costumes. Children will love this show, as it takes their point of view so seriously.
In due course, Father recognises the aridity of his lifestyle and gains a more rounded and rich appreciation of family life. He encourages his wife to go back on the stage. But she declares she wasn't a very good actress and affirms her desire to be a full-time mum. Despite a spirited performance by Rebecca Lock, and taking into account the Edwardian setting, Mrs Banks is a bit of a drip. A spoonful of theatre magic makes the retrograde family values message go down.