James and the Giant Peach | new theatrePhotos - Bob Seary

There is no denying that the late Roald Dahl is one of the best known and most loved children’s writers. Dahl’s canon is impressive and contains fantastical journeys, ghastly adults, talking creatures, the supernatural and wise orphans. “James and the Giant Peach,” first published in 1961, is one of his many books which have been translated into the medium of performance, other titles that have made the courageous leap from page to stage/film include “Fantastic Mr Fox”, “The Witches,” “Danny Champion of the World,” “Matilda” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

James and the Giant Peach is the story of an ordinary boy who meets extraordinary circumstances and ends up living in Central Park in New York. This story could be and has been told in many ways, but the most fascinating and mind bending about this production, is not the beginning, nor the end (which we are presented with at the very beginning) but the bizarre adventures which happen in the middle and the way in which they are creatively and imaginatively enacted on stage. This story contains a parent-gobbling rhinoceros, two hideously mean and ugly aunts (masterfully portrayed by Kellie Clarke and Rebecca Duff), pirates, seagulls, sharks, a sweet French speaking lady bird (a favourite with the young girls of the audience),a cheeky acrobatic pest of a centipede, a musical Grasshopper dressed in tales and sparkling top hat; a knitting, tea sipping spider; a grumbling old gent of an earthworm (my personal favourite!), a bright eyed and clever orphan called James and of course a huge (dare I say Giant?) peach.

On their adventures they encounter some difficulties over land, sea and sky which are overcome by the resourceful suggestions and leadership of James and occasionally assistance from a smiling stage manager. This is a story of Giant ambitious proportions, of wild imagination, geographic & scientific abandonment and rollicking audience participation. Rachel McNamara’s direction is highly creative and resourceful and utilizes the clever design to great effect.

Above all else, this is a wonderful ensemble of performers who bounce between characters, accents, costumes and locations under McNamara’s imaginative direction. Marika Aubrey is thoroughly engaging and vivacious as silver-voiced Miss Spider; the high energy and sass of Peter Wright’s centipede is very compelling, Jodine Muir plays a bright and lively Grasshopper, Lisa Wyatt is beautifully elegant as Ladybird, Michael Powell is believably bold as James and Nick Curnow provides a hilarious portrayal of the earthworm of doom and gloom. There characters are skilfully supported by Kellie Clarke and Rebecca Duff who provide light banter pre show and interval in addition to their excellent performances on stage. All performers are brimming with daring, humour and adventure on stage and with their interactions with pint-sized punters.

If you are hoping to rescue your children/nieces/nephews/grandchildren from the dull repetition of tv or video games, or perhaps want to indulge in a fantastic story with clever design aspects, James and the Giant Peach is sure to be the best source of imaginative and accessible live entertainment you’ll find this school holidays!

new theatre presents
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl - Adapted by David Wood

new theatre | 542 King Street Newtown
Dates/Times: Wednesday – Sunday / 1pm / 4 – 25 January 2008
Tickets: $17 ($14 groups 10+)
Bookings: 1300 306 776 / www.mca-tix.com

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