‘Willy Wonka Explained- The Veruca Salt Sessions’ **** The Metro

Julie Dawn Adds Salt to the Wound ****

Damon Smith of ‘The Metro’ reviewed Willy Wonka Explained- The Veruca Salt Sessions in The Metro on Wednesday. Here was his impression.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then Australian stand-up Matthew Hardy will begin to explain his 30-year obsession with the original and best version of Roald Dahl’s dark fantasy, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder as the slightly sinister owner of the world’s greatest confectionary brand.

Sat on one side of the stage, supposedly in a therapist;s chair, Hardy waxes lyrical about the 1971 film and its shining star, Julie Dawn Cole, who played obnoxious Veruca Salt. ‘She’ll always be 12 to me,’ he coos, ‘Veruca will always be a cheeky, sassy trouble-making tyke.’ Ten feet away, nestled in a similar chair, Julie Dawn purges her soul also in the guise of emotional healing, railing against the diehard fans who still call her Veruca to this very day and fondly remembering her turn as Dorothy in the York Theatre Royal production of The Wizard Of Ox opposite a young Pierce Brosnan. ‘He played a tree, a role he recreated in Mamma Mia!’ she observes cattily.

So begins an hour of verbal ping-pong between devoted fan and celebrity idol, each telling their side of a story and friendship that began at Melbourne airport and continues today.

Hardy’s assertion that Charlie was a depressed little boy in need of counselling gets big laughs, while Cole reads aloud letters she penned to her mother during the making of the film. ‘Isn’t it funny. Shopping makes me feel good,’ writes 12-year-old Julie Dawn Cole, discovering the pleasures of womanhood before she has even hit her teenage years. Kids grow up so fast…

Damon Smith

Until Aug 29, Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm.

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