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The Orchard Theatre under the spell of Worst Witch

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 February 2019

The Worst Witch opens at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, on February 27. Photo: Manuel Harlan

The Worst Witch opens at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, on February 27. Photo: Manuel Harlan

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Grown-ups have always thought all witches were the worst, but children from seven and a little older, know full well the worst witch is Mildred Hubble.

The Worst Witch tells the adventures of Mildred Hubble. Photo: Manuel HarlanThe Worst Witch tells the adventures of Mildred Hubble. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Writer Jill Murphy first put pen to paper to come up with her incredible books in 1974.

Since then, and maybe helped on by the success of a future wizard chap, the Worst Witch has soared, and now it’s coming to Dartford.

This new play by Emma Reeves will help introduce the character to a whole new generation.

The Worst Witch is the story of an ordinary girl who finds herself in an extraordinary place: a school for witches.

Miss Cackle's Academy comes to Dartford. Photo: Manuel HarlanMiss Cackle's Academy comes to Dartford. Photo: Manuel Harlan

The television series started with her and her witch friends just starting in their first year, taking on the mists of time.

Now in her final year, accident-prone Mildred Hubble and her fellow pupils leave a trail of mayhem behind them as they find themselves at the centre of a battle that’s being fought for their future.

The Worst Witch has enjoyed an extraordinary success, having so far sold more than five million copies and been made into films and TV series by HBO, ITV and CBBC.

A delighted Jill said: “My first trip to the theatre aged four, opened up a magical world - so real to me, that I had to be restrained from climbing onstage to help the children in peril.

“My mum was quite cross with me, but I never wanted the show to end and sang the songs loudly all the way home on the bus.

“Imagine how proud I feel, all these years later, seeing my own Mildred Hubble on stage with all the characters from Miss Cackle’s Academy. I still feel thrilled to bits when I go to the theatre and I just know The Worst Witch is going to be a magical production.”

And Emma added: “We’re creating a brand new story as well as revisiting moments from the books.”

What can young audiences expect from The Worst Witch?

Jealous Ethel Hallow is out to spoil Mildred’s fun, and Miss Hardbroom is opposed to all fun in general.

But, without giving too much away, Mildred faces a greater danger than she ever imagined as an old enemy returns, with a plan for revenge that could threaten not just the academy, but the whole world.

Director Theresa Heskins said: “This year, when we’ve seen the start of a rebalancing of power within our society, it feels like an important time to be creating a play about young women who are learning, collectively and individually, to use their power; and the danger if they decide to use it not for good but for ill.”

Her shining resume includes The Snow Queen which won the 2017 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People. And her wonderfully inventive and hugely popular production of Around the World in 80 Days was nominated for the same award, in both 2015 and 2017.

Emma added: “I grew up with some of the books. I read them over and over. As an adult, I worked with Jill, first on a television adaption of the books and then on this new play.”

She said Jill had a strict Catholic upbringing. Emma said: “The nuns who tormented her became Miss Hardbroom and her coven of teacher-witches. And Jill herself – a bright, well-intentioned but unlucky accident-prone girl with a tendency to daydream – became Mildred Hubble.”

The Worst Witch will be at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, from Wednesday, February 27 to Sunday, March 3. Tickets from orchardtheatre.co.uk or 01322 220000.

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