Wednesday, December 23, 2009

James and the Giant Peach

In its 30th Birthday season the Polka Theatre has returned to its most successful show to date and it is easy to see why. David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much loved story is a delight from the start. James (James Daley) introduces us to his insect friends who all look spot on, particularly the Grasshopper (Andrew Mathys) who also plays the violin wonderfully. The story then begins. We meet James’ two sinister aunts, Aunt Spiker (Anna-Marie Paraskeva) and Aunt Sponge (Neil Smye), the latter having the distinct air of a pantomime dame about her - the children in the audience are both amused and disgusted by them. Once James escapes from them the adventure begins. The story is set beautifully thanks to the design by Keith Baker, and lighting by Jim Simmons, both of which remain effective throughout and create a magical atmosphere. As James and his insect friends go on their adventure we are treated to some amusing songs, most notably from the Centipede (Neil Smye), amusing comments, particularly from the Earthworm (Des Yankson) and lots of audience participation. This is a delightful feel good production, wonderfully performed by a strong cast - which the whole family will thoroughly enjoy.
Poor James, stuck living with his two crabby aunts. One day a peculiar thing happens, which leads to another peculiar thing happening and before you know it, James is living on a giant peach with some huge bugs. Sounds bizarre, right? And to be honest, it IS rather bizarre. To be living amongst huge bugs would completely freak me out. But the reason Dahl 's stories are classics is that the bizarre-ness WORKS. We believe it! We believe in the musically gifted Old Grandfather Grasshopper and the mild and motherly Ladybug. Sure there are crazy cloud people up in the sky creating out weather. Dahl's stories are just so readable and kid-centric. He empowers his readers with a sense that even when you are a kid, horrible things can happen to you but that you are strong enough to stay kind and patient until it all works out. What a fantastic message.

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