JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH – Polka Theatre, London.
Having always been entranced by the wonders of Roald Dahl ever since I was a little girl, the prospect of seeing one of his stories brought to life on stage still fills me with excitement. James and the Giant Peach is evidently still as popular as ever – with children reciting parts of the text as they hurriedly take their seats.
The beginning does not start with an overwhelming promise of thrills, as lines feel a little forced and scene changes feel somewhat clunky, however it is worth persevering with as the slow start develops into a much more magical experience later. Being faced with a multi-purpose giant peach stone as the main focus for the set is a captivating sight to behold from the start and the vibrant colours remain throughout.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the peach and the different variations the production uses to portray the overwhelming size and juiciness of the poignant fruit. From its fully grown entirety, to the lighter, rounder version – which the audience play a part in moving. However one of the best has to be the perspective of all characters on top of the peach, complete with a giant stem.
The performance really finds its stride in the second half, with both cast and audience now feeling relaxed and immersed in the journey with James. Miss Spider (Ebony Feare) stands out as a strong, independent female character who helps to support the rest of the cast, whilst the children are given more of a role – playing sharks and interacting with the story. One particular moment which stands out, is a section under the water; using projection and puppets we are catapulted into a completely different location, which is beautifully executed.
By the end of the show the children are more excitable than before and rather than dashing out of the Theatre with numb bottoms and tired eyes, are desperate to share their thoughts with the grown-ups in case they happened to miss anything. There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy when watching James and the Giant Peach. Mixing live music, flamboyant costumes and a slick script which incorporates much of Dahl’s wonderfully exuberant language, it is a production that – although not perfect – demonstrates the power of storytelling to young people.
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By Natalie Green
27th May – 14th August 2016
Polka Theatre, London SW19 1SB.