James and the Giant Peach
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Tuesday 19th February 2013
Children's shows are being produced increasingly frequently and becoming more and more popular, which is fantastic for many reasons - not least that it encourages a new generation of lovers of live entertainment away from their various screens and into the theatre - a sentiment that the television hating Roald Dahl himself would have cheered. And with shows of this quality it is no surprise that children are being lured back again and again to theatrical interpretations of their favourite books and stories.
Now a classic of children's literature, James and the Giant Peach tells the story of a young boy escaping the tyranny of his vile pair of aunts via a touch of magic, a group of friendly insects, and a giant piece of fruit. Heart warming, exciting and witty, there is much to enjoy from the story itself. This production adds another level of entertainment however, by introducing the young audience to a particularly theatrical style of show. Talented actor-musicians underscore the action live, costumed with recognisably insect-y touches but never allowing the children to doubt that an actor hides beneath the character. A clever, open stage allows the audience to see into the wings throughout the show, watching as props and set pieces are moved around and items of costume are changed, breaking down any pretence of realism and offering the children an insight into the world of theatre.
A show that never forgets that it is targeted at children, but also does not patronise with an obvious interpretation that would fit better in the cinema. A refreshing, unusual and enjoyable production of a classic story.