In true Dahl tradition, much of the more macabre content is kept within this adaptation, which is to its strength
The tale is as you remember it. James, having lost his parents in a tragic rhinoceros accident, is sent to live with his horrible aunts. Whilst there, he encounters a man who gives him magical crocodile tongues, but accidentally spills them on a barren peach tree, prompting a single peach to grow to humongous size, within which lives a wonderful menagerie of similarly huge insects.
In true Dahl tradition, much of the more macabre content is kept within this adaptation, which is to its strength. Some younger children in the audience were a little on edge, but those slightly older seemed enraptured. The members of the ensemble are strong performers, playing off each other well and interacting comfortably with their audience. The two playing the roles of the narrator and Aunt Spiker respectively were particularly notable. Silly voices were used to the delight of the young audience, although they became slightly unintelligible from time to time.
In addition to excellent costumes, other elements were used to capture the children’s attention. The shadow puppetry earns points for innovation, although it could have been used more frequently and, more importantly, the shadows created could have been larger. I happened to be quite close to the screen at one side, but it may have been more difficult for children to see at the back. There were a few songs as well, which were fun enough but, like the shadow puppetry, more could have been made of them. The live sound effects produced by the actors were also enjoyable – a loud fart-like sound got the biggest laugh of the afternoon - but the fantastical nature of the play could have been enhanced for the children by the inclusion of more bizarre sound effects and soundscapes over the speakers.
Nevertheless, James and the Giant Peach is still very much worth the time of any parents with children old enough to have been read Dahl’s original. It’s the story you know and love already, with extra little bits that add up to an enjoyable piece of afternoon theatre.