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James and the Giant Peach

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 7th Mar 2013 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge



James and the Giant Peach – Darlington Civic Theatre

The zany and surreal world of Roald Dahl has, once again, burst on to the stage of the Civic Theatre. Following on from the 2010 production of George’s Marvellous Medicine, the Birmingham Stage Company are now presenting a new adaptation of the classic Dahl story, James and the Giant Peach.

Dahl is an expert at making the implausible seem totally plausible – it is easy to suspend disbelief and accept that James’ parents were devoured by a rhinoceros rampaging along Regent Street, during a shopping trip to London – and, similarly, so is the BSC.

Once again, David Wood has vividly and vibrantly adapted the original Dahl novel and perfectly captured the magically grotesque qualities of the colourful characters. The performances are strong too, with Claire Greenway and Sioned Saunders making a marvellous double act as the hideous aunts, Sponge and Spiker. Holly White’s costumes splendidly aid the physical characterisation of Centipede (Chris Lindon), Earthworm (Rhys Saunders), Grasshopper (Iwan Tudor), Ladybird (Claire Greenway) and Spider (Sioned Saunders).

However, as was the case with Clark Devlin in George’s Marvellous Medicine, it is Tom Gillies’ James who drives the story and steals the show. Gillies’ boyish looks and keenly-observed mannerisms completely convinced the audience that he was a seven-year-old boy.

The imaginative use of props and puppets provides an additional focus to retain the attention of potentially wandering young minds and the set is both functional and visually impressive.

Whilst this production has a lot of plus points – not least of which is the incredibly talented cast (who also spare the company the additional expense of a band/orchestra by playing all of the instruments themselves) – it is not without flaws. In a conversation with a fellow reviewer, we both bemoaned the fact that what was happening in the wing-space was constantly on view, thus perhaps causing something of an irksome distraction and dispelling a certain amount of magic for the youngsters in the audience who were so readily willing to be totally transported into the weird and wonderful world of James and his insect friends.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs until Saturday 9 March 2013.

For tickets visit or call 01325 486 555


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Steve. Activity in the wings is what makes stagecraft seem like witchcraft! It should NEVER be seen!
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