Review of KickstArt’s James and the Giant Peach by Chris Sutton

If you are a fan of Roald Dahl’s writing this production will be just up your street. Dahl did not regard children as inferior beings. He saw them living in a parallel reality; on the one hand having to endure pesky adults and on the other free to expand their young minds in a world filled with magic and marvellous experiences. Greg King’s welcome at the beginning of the glossy programme ends with fitting words: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”.
And if you go down to The Sneddon one day, before the 24th, it is magic that you will find because KickstArt have produced an absolute peach of a production. The storyline follows Dahl’s book with little deviation: Young James is orphaned when his parents are killed by a rhino that has escaped from London Zfnboo. Despite trying to be rescued by an orphanage he is confined to the home of his 2 foul aunts. He is rescued when he enters a tunnel in a giant peach that has grown on a tree in the garden. Here he meets a musical Green Grasshopper, a paranoid Earthworm, a cheerful Centipede, sassy Miss Spider and Ladybird and together they roll, float and fly the peach to New York City.
The show sets off at a gentle pace until the final scene of the first half which sees the peach roll through the village causing chaos and mayhem. This is cleverly depicted with the use of bouncing balls covered in feathers.
An absolute standout of this production are the puppets; from seedy looking seagulls, an articulated shark, swimming fish, James at 4 years old, a life size octopus to a massive orange peach that is bounced into the air by the audience. The scene where James rescues Centipede from drowning is magnificently done.
Music is by Durban Band ‘The South Jersey Pom Poms’ whose Eastern European style adds an exotic tone to the production.
A fantabolously good theatrical experience which I would love to watch again just for the fantastic puppetry.
The acting is excellent, costumes superb, lighting sublime – but it is the puppets which make this show unique and puts it up there with class that KickstArt are able to deliver with every production that they bring to the stage.
PS: Dahl did not like ‘aunts’ – you may pick that up from this poem titled “The Ant Eater” from the collection Dirty Beasts. It goes like this:
“In the U.S.A., near San Francisco, lived a very stupid and spoiled boy named Roy. His parents bought him everything he ever wanted. One day he decided that he wanted a peculiar pet that no one else owned: he wanted a giant ant-eater. His father wrote to all the zoos, but none of them would sell their ant-eaters. Finally the father found an Indian man willing to part with his for 50,000 gold rupees. When the ant-eater arrived, it was half-dead with starvation from the long journey. He asked Roy for food, but the cruel boy told the ant-eater to go find ants. Unfortunately there weren’t any in the garden. The ant-eater again begged for food, but Roy told him to eat ants. That very day, Roy’s aunt Dorothy came to visit. She was a foul old hag of 83. Roy introduced her to the ant-eater saying, “Ant-eater! Don’t lie there yawning! / This is my ant! Come say good-morning!” (Here the narrator interjects to point out that Americans say “aunt” and “can’t” incorrectly.) The ant-eater was excited to see such a huge “ant” and quickly gobbled her up. Roy fled to the potting shed and hid. “But ant-eater came sneaking in / (Already it was much less thin) . And said to Roy, ‘You little squirt, / I think I’ll have you for dessert.’”
PPS: This is also a goodie if read after a pork roast lunch:
PPPS: Dahl wrote for adults too – try “My Uncle Oswald” for a raunchy tale.
Thanks to Illa and Sophie at Publicity Matters for the tickets!

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