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James And The Giant Peach – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Writer: Roald Dahl

Adaptor: David Wood

Director: Max Webster

Reviewer: Rosie Revell

Leave reality behind at the door and join James for the adventure of a lifetime. James Henry Trotter (Chris Lew Kum Hoi) had the saddest life possible. His parents were eaten by a rhinoceros while shopping in London. He was then sent to live with his aunts Sponge (Beverly Rudd) and Spiker (Jess Murphy), who treated him like a slave, James is lonely with no friends. A wizard changes all that by giving him magical beans. Overnight they transform into a giant peach replete with human sized talking insects; spider (Murphy ), centipede (Paksie Vernon), earthworm (Dyfrig Morris) ladybird (Rudd) and grasshopper (Robert Pickavance). They all decide to fly away in the giant peach and have many adventures before living happily together in New York city.

Based upon Roald Dahl’s 1961 children’s classic of the same name, the Playhouse’s annual Christmas courtyard production, James And The Giant Peach offers magic, wonder, amazing use of language and fun to its rapt and enchanted audience. Using movement, music, dance, puppetry, humour and just the right amount of audience participation this is a wonderful show that really warms the cockles of even the most hardened heart.

This show is a delight from start to finish; adaptor Wood has taken all that children, and adults, for that matter loved about Dahl’s writing and turned it into a magical hour and a half. It is tragic James’ parents are killed in such a way but there is comedy within that. Dahl knew how to speak children’s language and show the world from their point of view making it memorably funny, very theatrical, using larger than life character, life and death situations, brilliant baddies, relatable child protagonists, an irreverent humour, an emotionally satisfying sense of justice and an alluring use of magic. Light, to represent the magic of the peach is used beautifully and really evokes the wondrous transformation of the peach.

The seven strong cast, take on many different rôles and are a delight. It is hard to pinpoint one performance as each is excellent and given their own opportunity to shine. Highlights include Aunts Sponge (Rudd) and Spiker (Murphy) who are so deliciously horrid that their comeuppance, being squashed by the giant peach, causes squeals of delight from the audience. Special mention must go to our hero Hoi as James who holds the whole thing together, inviting the audience on this journey of a lifetime.

Designer Fly Davis’ set is essentially a huge cardboard box that opens this way and that to reveal the action, a cardboard theatre by which James can share his adventures and his imagination with the audience. It’s a wonderfully imaginative set with subtle touches that harks back to the psychedelic 1960s. Props are used sparingly but to marvellous effect. The rhino, fashioned from saws is just the right balance of humour and scary. The shark is ingenious using the same few saws and a deckchair. The peach, described in the book as being enormous, takes on many different guises but the best has to be the giant beachball which the audience help along its flight.

A succulent treat that is recommended to all.
Runs until: 24th January 2015

Writer: Roald Dahl Adaptor: David Wood Director: Max Webster Reviewer: Rosie Revell Leave reality behind at the door and join James for the adventure of a lifetime. James Henry Trotter (Chris Lew Kum Hoi) had the saddest life possible. His parents were eaten by a rhinoceros while shopping in London. He was then sent to live with his aunts Sponge (Beverly Rudd) and Spiker (Jess Murphy), who treated him like a slave, James is lonely with no friends. A wizard changes all that by giving him magical beans. Overnight they transform into a giant peach replete with human sized talking…

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Charlotte Broadbent. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.