‘James and the Giant Peach’ reviewed by Gordon the Optomby Gordon The Optom November 30, 2017
‘James and the Giant Peach’ was written in 1961 by eccentric British author, Roald Dahl. This fun adaptation for stage was by Richard R. George, a friend who adapted most of the Dahl favourites. This version was further adapted by David Wood.
In 1942, when Squadron Leader Dahl met CS Forrester, author of ‘Captain Hornblower’, he was inspired to try writing. This air ace and British spy penned his wartime adventures, shortly followed by a children’s story; and so an era began.
This much-loved book was adapted into a film of the same name in 1996.
The KADS Youth Group is presenting this 90-minute, lively show. They were recent winners of a Youthfest award with their production of ‘Rabbit’. This production can be seen at 8.00 each evening in the KADS Theatre, Barber Street, Kalamunda, until Saturday 2nd December. There is a matinée on Sunday the 19th and 26th November at 2.00 pm.
Set: A small door is in front of the curtains. An audience member is invited to knock on it. The curtains open. At each side of the stage, sit the clear spoken and beguiling narrators, Jana Haering and Imogen Bates. Behind then is a withered, struggling peach tree.
Scene: It is 1970 in England. Initially, centre stage, there is a 1.5 metre peach. Then we are taken inside the peach, where on tiered seating are all of James’ friends. There are numerous wonderful props, ranging from sharks and seagulls, to an accurate ‘model’ of the Queen Mary. An eye-catching set built by co-designer Geoff Rumsey, Bill Weighell, Peter Gale, Paul Hodges, and Richard Woolman.
Joy Miles was the lighting designer, and Monique Lewitt and Lindsay Goodwin were in charge of the sound. The techs for the show’s run were Mark Ramsey, Les Marshall, Dave Rimmer, Nathaniel Bates, and Stephen Marr.
The show was stage manged by Monique Lewitt, and assisted by her crew of Fletcher Roberts, Caitlyn Moloney, Shauntelle Lewitt-Willoughby, Candice Mountford, and Kate Rimmer. This crew helped Tania Rutley and Christine Ellis construct the props, with Barbara Gabathuler and Mariel Howard also adding superb artistic qualities to the set and props.
The curtains open, and the enthusiastic, New York tour guide (Isla Howard) welcomes us. She shows us a strange house in Central Park, and the narrators begin to tell us the story behind it. Whilst on holiday in London with his mother (Larnaka Wilkinson) and father (Marik Gabathuler), a boy called James Henry Trotter (Leo Rimmer) visited the zoo, where a rhinoceros killed his parents. As shown on TV, by a reporter (Alex Campbell) who was quickly on the scene.
James went to live in Dover with his horrible aunts, Spiker (Lilliana Lewitt-Willoughby) and Sponge (Caitlyn Rutley) being treated as slave labour until he was nine years old. One day, an old man (Isla Howard) gives him a bag of glowing crocodile tongues. When James drops them they fall under the peach tree. Within days, the tree has a massive peach growing on it, and so his aunts make a fortune selling tickets to people wishing to see the wonder.
James crawls into a hole in the side of the peach, and meets several new friends. There is a punk centipede (Sienna freeman) that has a boot fetish. An old grasshopper (Amalia Lewitt-Willoughby) and a blind earthworm (Marik Gabathuler) are considered the wise men of the group. They point out how everyone has a purpose in life. The smart ladybird (Bella Freeman) tells how she eats the aphids on fruit.
At times it could be dark inside the peach, but thanks to the luminescent tail of Glow Worm (Evie Madeleine), life went on. The peach rolled down a hill and into the sea; thankfully, Spider (Annabel Wolstenholme) hooked her web threads to seagulls and a passing liner. Within hours, the liner landed in New York where a young girl, dressed in red (Tiffany Ramsey), welcomed the ship’s First Officer (Elliot Rimmer) and the giant peach.
But what will happen to James and his friends?
This is definitely a show for children, even as young as six and upwards. For some children it was their first theatre show, and their faces glowed. The cast mingled in the audience and the kids were even more mesmerised by the highly inventive and delightful costumes. These were beautifully designed, and tailored to a very high standard by Rebecca Jagot, Candice Mountford, Monique Lewitt and the parents.
The musical director and composer, Monique Lewitt, had the children singing with all of their hearts; amazingly there were no silent mouths moving. The facial expressions matched the words, and performers oozed warmth. Narrator Jana Haering gave a delightful solo on the tenor ukulele, accompanied at times by Grasshopper Amalia on violin.
As well as directing, Christine Ellis had a great deal of input into the production including set, costumes and sound. The children’s ages ranged from 8 to 14. With no adult on stage to guide or prompt, often there can be problems, yet in this show, every single actor gave a performance of which to be proud. In fact the pace, delivery and clarity of the voices out-shone several adult shows that I have seen this year. Very well directed and acted.
So much talent, and with quite a few names to watch for in the future. Well done to all concerned.