Chocolate historian Roald Dahl’s most famous book was brought to life in style by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.

Our seven-year-old daughter Poppy’s excitement dial was turned up to 11 when she discovered she was going to see this Leeds Playhouse production – and she wasn’t disappointed.

The set began as a rubbish dump of two halves which slid apart to reveal a sweet shop in Grimechester where Charlie Bucket (the superb Amelia Minto) hoped to find one of five golden tickets to the factory hidden inside the wrappers of Wonka chocolate bars.

But Charlie’s family were virtually penniless, as illustrated by her house which was wheeled on and off the stage. While Charlie’s mum (Leonie Spilsbury) went out to work, upstairs her four elderly grandparents shared one bed – sagging in the middle so it looked like it might crash to the ground at any moment.

A first attempt to find a ticket on Charlie’s birthday failed, as did a second try using her Grandpa Joe’s life savings. But Charlie found just enough money on the pavement outside the sweet shop to make it third time lucky.

Joe (Michael D’Cruze) was so inspired by her good fortune that he regained the ability to walk and donned what appeared to be a bus conductor’s uniform to join Charlie in the factory.

After the interval, as a series of mishaps whittled down the visitors until only Charlie and Grandpa Joe remained, there was more great staging to portray the factory, superb use of projections, and a glass elevator.

The plot would be recognised by anyone who saw the 1971 Gene Wilder film, with some more modern references such as a Rubik cube and a basketball tournament. But Poppy’s favourite moment was an original twist, when bubblegum-blowing golden ticket holder Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan) found herself inflated after eating blueberries and was replaced by a big blueberry-coloured beach ball adorned with a doll’s head.

By chance we found ourselves sitting next to a four-year-old girl and her family from Alton, who thoroughly enjoyed the show. We got chatting after Poppy and the girl made friends in the ice cream queue.

Songs included Pure Imagination, and Gareth Snook, who was charismatic as Willy Wonka, sang well and had some heart-warming scenes with Charlie near the end of a wonderful night.

Paul Coates

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical continues until September 3. For tickets call 02380 711811 or visit