An Imaginative Theatrical Treat for Youngsters and the Young at Heart
This adaptation by David Wood of a classic tale, under the direction of Rosetta Parker, starts in true Roald Dahl style at the end of the story as from within the audience we are greeted by a Tour Guide (Ruth Proffitt) bringing a party of tourists (the ensemble - Millie Garrett; Alice Evans-Gray; Sarah Evans-Gray; Danni Gore; Ben Martindale; Jenny Martindale; Sophie Martindale; Sarah Reeves, Pippa Rushton; Eleanor Webster; Madeleine Webster) to see a major attraction in Central Park, New York: a giant peach stone in which resides James (Beth Cragg), the musical Old Green Grasshopper (Neil Cragg), the resourceful Miss Spider (Jo Webster), the proud Centipede (David Parker), the ever-French Ladybird (Alison Mawdsley) and the very depressed Earthworm (Niamh Dowd) and we launch into the first musical number of the evening with superb choreography from Jo Webster.
The story of how they ended up here is faithfully told by James and the insect characters at varying points as we travel back to where it all began many years before when James’ father (Rick Young) and mother (Jen Jones) were killed in a tragic accident that no one could have foreseen and James has to go and live with his wonderfully horrid Aunts, Sponge (Tim Evans) and Spiker (Judith Martindale), who exploit him for their own gain – or as they so eloquently sing: ‘money makes the world go round’. One evening he bumps into an Old Man (Rick Young) who shares some marvellous magical things with him, the result of which is to cause a fruitless peach tree to proliferate into an enormous peach. Before he knows what’s happening, James finds himself inside the peach surrounded by a friendly gang of human-sized insects who have also been enlarged by the potion. But as the peach rolls ever onward, with them inside, we go into the interval on a real cliff-hanger.
The second half starts with our friends still firmly ensconced in the peach now bobbing at sea and it is time for our hero James to grow as he finds his voice, earns the trust of his new friends, and takes them forward through numerous challenges, before their eventual and safe-ish arrival in New York. Along the way we are treated to more entertaining song and dance routines from our ensemble; the delightfully rotten rhymes of Roald Dahl, all delivered with aplomb by the cast; and a clever play on words routine between a Captain (Rick Young) and his No.1 (Emma Gough) and No.2 (Olivia Draycott).
The cast were energetic and focused throughout to provide 90+ minutes of unadulterated entertainment that will appeal to young and old alike – there really is something for everybody. The ensemble chop and change to suit the characters that we encounter throughout from rhinos to sharks through to sailors allowing your imagination to run away with itself. The scene where the centipede falls into the sea was an absolute delight as through shadow puppetry and mime (both used throughout this production to great effect), we are fully immersed in the depths of the ocean and the unfolding rescue by James.
The adaptable set is impressive and ever-changing throughout the story with clever use of props to offer different insights into key moments in the story and allowing for full audience engagement. The lighting (Rosetta Parker/Graham Swift) and sound (Tracey Duffy/Lynn Aconley) are the perfect accompaniment throughout creating believable moments of suspense and intrigue, despair and hope. As we closed with the full cast and ensemble singing ‘Best Day Of My Life’ I can honestly say that this was one of the best evenings of entertainment of mine.
Rainhill Garrick Society was formed in 1942 and James and the Giant Peach is their 227th production. They meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at Rainhill Village Hall and are always looking for new members, so whether you want to tread the boards or just help backstage then get in touch – who knows where it might take you but you’ll certainly have fun with this very friendly and welcoming group.
Forthcoming productions for the season include Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer in February and a Farndale ‘Murder Mystery’ in May. The first production for the next season – Seasons Greetings by Alan Ayckbourn in October – has also been confirmed. For further information on their productions or to get involved then visit their website http://rainhillgarrick.co.uk/
James & The Giant Peach plays at Rainhill Village Hall on Thursday 5th, Friday 6th and Saturday 7th January 2017 with performances starting at 7.15pm as well as a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm. Tickets at £6 (£5 concessions) are available at Rainhill Village Post Office or by calling 0151 430 9431.
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 3rd January 2017