Mary Poppins Review - Prince Edward Theatre
It’s a Disney classic and a family favourite, delighting all ages for many years and consistently raising the bar for the type of special effects that can be achieved in a live stage production. ‘Mary Poppins’, the world’s most magical nanny, with her technicolour adventures, fantastic stories, and mystical ways, has been a stage hit since 2004, enjoying London and New York success and popular tours. It swooped back into the West End, back into the Prince Edward Theatre in 2019, and now it doesn’t have long until it swoops back out again.
‘Mary Poppins’ tells the story of the Banks Family; George (Mark Goldthorp), Winifred (Francesca Lara Gordon), Jane (Arabella McDermott) and Michael (Sebastian Selwood). George is working all the time, Winifred is struggling to be the housewife fit for society, and the children are chasing away any nanny that enters their Cherry Tree Lane home. And then Mary Poppins (Zizi Strallen) arrives and its down to her to save the family from ruin before it is too late. With the help of jack of all trades Bert (played at this performance by Jason Kajdi), the children and their parents have some important lessons to learn.
Strallen’s Mary is no nonsense, oozing grace in every moment and perfectly balancing strictness with genuine love and care for the two Banks children. She has a cheeky side, prepared to put anyone, child, or adult, in their place. Her chemistry with Kajdi’s Bert is sweet and believable, a double act not to be messed with. In this production, there is a lot for the performer playing the role of Bert to take on. Not only he is the multitasker, the painter, the lamp lighter, the chimney sweep, but he acts as the narrator of sorts of the piece, aiding in the movement of the set and constantly interacting with those around him. Kadji handles it with ease, impressing greatly throughout as the much-loved character.
As the troubled Mr George Banks, Mark Goldthorp excels. He is a man driven by his career, with little understanding of his own children’s needs and such thing as a work/life balance. It would be easy to paint him as a villain, but Goldthorp makes the audience feel for him, and will him on to succeed. Francesca Lara Gordon’s Winifred Bank isn’t quite sure of her place in society, and all she wants is what is best for her family. Her rendition of ‘Being Mrs Banks’ becomes a standout moment.
Injecting a wonderful dose of comedy into the Banks household is the formidable double act of Mrs Brill and Robertson Ay played by Claire Machin and Sam O’Rourke respectively. Mrs Brill is straight talking, dripping in sarcasm and as much as she bosses the forgetful and clumsy Robertson Ay around, I think she loves having him around really and it’s impossible not to love O’Rourke’s sweet butler, always trying his best.
The ensemble bounces effortlessly from role to role, from bank workers and kite flyers to dancing statues and chimney sweeps. In a true display of the power of the ensemble, they dance their way through the action and move the story along at a wonderful pace.
I simply have to mention Bob Crowley’s set design, as it truly is something to behold. The Bank family home becomes a giant dollhouse, unfolding and sliding in and out like the pages of a pop-up book, bursting with colour and a childlike joy.
It’s sad to think that there are only a few weeks left to visit Cherry Tree Lane and be taken into the magic of Mary Poppins, but I really do hope that one day, the magical nanny will come flying back into our lives once more.