London Theatre Review: Mary Poppins Practically Perfect in Every Way
Updated on 18 November 2019
The brolly-clutching, super-nanny-of-dreams has flown into London’s Prince Edward Theatre. The classic tale of the Banks family and their encounter with Mary Poppins is brought to life with all the colour, magic, and joy we would expect. Zizi Strallen in the titular role excels, it is not easy to play a role made so famous by the sensational Julie Andrews. Strallen makes the role her own, perfectly portraying the poised, strong, no-nonsense character we know and love. It certainly is not a copycat performance yet there were still welcome hints of the Julie Andrews performance in her delivery, which ignites a spark of childish glee.
Charlie Stemp’s Bert was also very well done. He gave a very natural performance, exuding boyish charm. He also tap-danced upside down which was quite a feat, especially his sensational performance in ‘Step in Time’. The Banks gave a heartfelt performance. Richard Eyre’s direction of the child actors in this show, and their brilliant execution of the roles of Jane and Michael Banks should be highly praised. Amy Griffiths gives a beautiful performance as Winifred Banks which is highly emotive and sensitive. George Banks for me, however, stole the show. Joseph Millson plays the role with wonderful honesty, and his performance of ‘Good for Nothing’ adds an emotional depth to the show that is almost unexpected as reality crashes into the otherwise fantastical story. His journey on stage is a delight to watch and it is impossible not to shed a small tear as he vows to put his family first and holds his wife tightly as the show closes.
Petula Clark’s Bird Woman had the most gorgeous stage presence. Clare Machin and Jack North gave a strong performance as the comedy duo Mrs Brill and Robertson Ay. North can be particularly praised for his excellent physical comedy. Mrs Corry, a role introduced in the stage production, injected a fabulous amount of energy and vibrance on stage for perhaps Mary Poppins’ most famous number ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. I enjoyed the change of setting for this scene and Malinda Parris’s strong, playful performance as Corry brought a whole new level of outlandish frivolity to the song.
The creative team behind this production have brought to life the show with a truly masterful set, props and lighting. The piece was stylised but incredibly detailed. The props department excelled in bringing the magic of Mary Poppins to life: the classic handbag scene was carried out to a faultless standard. ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ was a delight, with enchanted dancing brooms, broken shelves and cupboards snapping into place, and a transforming cake. The costumes complimented the set to perfection, Mary Poppins’ coat and shoes changing to match certain scenes; a particularly gorgeous moment being Mary Poppins dressed in purple as the stage was flooded with indigo and twinkling white stars towards the end. The change from the drab grey of the Londoner’s attire to their colourful and bizarre reimagining in ‘Jolly Holiday’ was also expertly done.
Mathew Bourne’s choreography is, as always, spectacular, engaging and faultless. I adored the shapes created in ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, and ‘Step in Time’ had me in awe.
A final point to note is that there were elements of the show that were somewhat of a darker character. I found these more gritty moments allowed the piece to have shading and development in tone, it isn’t all heartfelt and whimsical. The ‘Playing the Game’ number was nightmarish, as a creepy toy, Valentine, freakishly dances around the stage and a giant Mr Punch doll emerges from the darkness. It highlighted that Mary Poppins is a show for all ages, with a variety of themes that keeps its audience engaged from start to finish. I highly recommend that you too should fly into the Prince Edward for a jolly old time!
Mary Poppins tickets available from £18!
It's your lucky day, there are still seats available for Mary Poppins, and select performances have tickets for under £20. It's guaranteed to be a Jolly Holiday with Mary!