Deep in the depths of student living it’s easy to forget that alternative generations do actually exist, and with it a whole other world of experience and art. It’s important that we don’t disconnect ourselves from what doesn’t happen immediately under our nose, so I went to see James and the Giant Peach at the Northern stage.
Almost every member from our generation will have experienced the wonder of Roald Dahl during their childhood- whether through the medium of his incredible language within his books, or through the later film adaptations and experimentations with music. Considering his amazing ability to understand and excite the mind of a child with language and absurdity, it’s hard to deny he is an incredible literary father to many of us, so even if I make out I went to this play to make some pretentious remarks about theatre, it was partly just an opportunity to relive my childhood under the adult mask of journalist.
Directed by Mark Calvert, the play took place first on November 19 and is running until the 31 of December. The most obvious comment to be made is on the ingeniously crafted set, which was able to play the streets of London or New York, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker’s home or garden, under the sea, the beach and of course, a peach- inside or out. It was reasonably minimalistic, bar a tree, and relied instead on shape, light and how the space was used to convey location and plot. This production did not patronise its audience (who were sat in a combination of traverse and proscenium), understanding that the imagination of a child performs the majority of the work for them.
The actors brilliantly brought to life the quirky characters we have grown to know and love; all of the insects, as well as the two aunties, retained their vibrant personalities, whilst dressed in cleverly engineered costumes, which were the perfect addition to an already aesthetically brilliant production. They were supported by a constantly busy cast, multi rolling as children, sharks and press who showed obscene talent to stitch together a piece which relied almost entirely on human labour. And of course James, played by Stan Hodgson, gave a relatable character to whom the children could admire. Did I mention they were also all playing musical instruments?
The most fantastic thing about this play was the interaction and the consequent response from the delighted children in the audience. Bubbles, puppets and giant inflatable balls were just some of the things bouncing off the stage, combined with scooters and dialogue that involved the children to an extent that they were getting up from their seats.
This stunning production certainly did justice to Roald Dahl, capturing the most important essence of his writing: imagination. It was bombarded with comedy, excitement, extravagance and fun that excited and involved children. If we want to keep working towards theatre that is inclusive, it is essential that young children are not intimidated by concept of sitting still. This production proves that theatre can be fun and universal.
“James and the Giant Peach, a new adaptation of the much loved Roald Dahl story.
SAT 19 NOV - SAT 31 DEC”