Last week I was lucky enough to attend a performance of James and the Giant Peach at the Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham.
An adaptation of the classic book by Roald Dahl, it was an inventive, charming and creative performance that had all the verve of the book bundled up into a winning package for the stage.
The cast showed fantastic versatility; playing multiple roles with ease, whilst singing, dancing, acting and playing instruments to boot. Many of Dahl’s wonderful poems were adapted into songs which really brought the production to life. The surreal quality of some of the staging decisions worked wonderfully to show off the quirkiness of the story, and a healthy dose of humour in the scripting and physical comedy of the performers made the play utterly beguiling.
Costumes and props were innovative and showed real creativity. The peach tree was basically a large bicycle pump with a balloon attached that had been turned into a tree. The cloud men, dressed in white hazmat suits threw ping pong balls into the crowd when they were making hail to throw at the peach. My favourite thing had to be the sharks, who were two cast members on micro scooters wearing back packs with fins attached. They looked like they were having the time of their lives.
We certainly were.
We took sixty year two and three children to see the play, and it was perfectly pitched for them. Younger children would enjoy it, although the length might be an issue, with each half lasting about an hour. Older children would enjoy the humour and the inventiveness of the props and costumes.
For teachers there is enough material to make some really interesting lessons out of the ideas demonstrated in the play, and it was a thoroughly satisfying experience for everyone involved.
The Birmingham Stage Company are taking the play on tour in the coming months. You can check out the tour dates by clicking on this link, to see if there is a performance near you.