I discovered Enid Blyton as a young child while searching my mum’s bookshelf in her old room at my grandparents’ house in France. The Famous Five series was translated as Le Club des Cinq and was part of the Bibliothèque Rose collection. I enjoyed how lovingly old fashioned they were. The drawings, the phrases, the kids’ names; everything seemed from another age. And yes, the kids and the dog all have different names in the French version.
I loved reading Blyton’s stories but I wasn’t familiar with the Malory Towers series before seeing the theatre performance on Friday.
Co-produced by Wise Children and York Theatre Royal in association with Bristol Old Vic, the play is a whirlwind of songs, dance, music and emotions!
Set after the Second World War, it tells the story of seven young girls who are all sent to Malory Towers, a boarding school on the Cornish coast. Irene, Gwendoline, Darell, Alicia, Sally, Bill and Mary Lou are very different young women who have to learn how to live together and grow together.
This big summer show, directed by former Shakespeare’s Globe director Emma Rice, is much more than a trip to the theatre. The Passenger Shed at Bristol Temple Meads station has been transformed into a bar, a mini classroom and a brilliant set! As well as the girls’ dorms, it becomes a train carriage, a Cornish beach and the scene of a terrifying rescue mission.
Despite the heat in the venue, the atmosphere in the sell out performance was terrific with children and adults alike absolutely loving it.
With tempers flaring and lies being discovered, the Malory Towers girls keep you glued to the story with so much energy and gusto that time seems to fly as the audience revels in their songs and acrobatics.
The cast is diverse and all the actors ooze with talent! The tomboy character Wilhelmina, who wants to be called Bill, reminds us of Georgina/George (Claudine/Claude) in The Famous Five and is played by a non-binary actor. It’s interesting how the theme of gender fluidity was important to Enid Blyton over 70 years ago.
My daughter and her friend absolutely loved the show and the after party and I can’t recommend it enough!
Malory Towers is at The Passenger Shed until 18 August.