“I loved the grasshopper most. James was the funniest one though. But the best bit was just the giant peach. And when we had to blow it back on to the stage.”
So, The Birmingham Stage Company’s production of James and the Giant Peach was a bona fide hit in the eyes of my four year-old son. I too, can remember my first outing to the theatre (Cats) – the high-octane mix of music, dancing and brightly coloured costumes whisking me into a land of fantasy and drama that I hadn’t even known existed until the curtain went up. And so it was for my son, his chocolate éclair abandoned under the seat, his wide-eyes locked on the stage. And David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fantastic tale didn’t disappoint on any level.
I might’ve found the evil aunts Spiker and Sponge quite scary at four years-old, but slapstick comedy softened their sinister characters and my son took it all in his stride, relishing in James’ escape and getting swept into his heroic adventures across the ocean. Of course some of the storyline and effects were lost on a mind so young: Where exactly were all the seagulls that lifted the peach into the sky? And why, when James rescued the centipede from the sea (played out by luminescent puppets) weren’t the fish real? But then, when films and books are the only story mediums you’ve witnessed, it can be hard to understand why theatre can’t simply stage a peach-load of giant animals floating across the sea. And from an adult’s point of view, each character personified their insect perfectly, especially the Ladybird.
Camping for the weekend, boat trips, collecting eggs from the chickens, then a trip to the theatre – what a wealth of experiences my boys are clocking up over this half term in Cornwall. And how happy I am that we didn’t join the mass exodus of traffic leaving the county for the holidays when there’s so much to do right here at home. Strawberry picking tomorrow, or wetsuits on and off to the beach?
James and the Giant Peach is showing at Hall for Cornwall until Sat 1 June. Daily matinees 2pm, evening performances 7pm
www.hallforcornwall.co.uk, 01872 262466