Following a long association with the unusual stories of Roald Dahl, the Birmingham Stage Company has taken on a huge challenge with its latest production of James and the Giant Peach.
Chris Lindon (Centipede), Sioned Saunders (Spider), Claire Greenway (Ladybird), Tom Gillies (James), Iwan Tudor (Grasshopper) and Rhys Saunders (Earthworm) in James and the Giant Peach at Birmingham Rep Photo: Ian Tilton
With scenes set under water, above land and - of course - inside a peach, such a production could so easily have taken a wrong turn. But using its trademark simplicity combined with creativity, the company has pulled off a beautiful version of this colourful classic.
The seamless combination of strong actors, incredible musical talent and the original use of props, such as skateboards, hula hoops and scooters, offers an impressive, uplifting, laugh-out-loud show. With just the right amount of audience interaction to keep the children happy, it never crosses into slapstick and there is gentle humour throughout.
Tom Gillies’ childlike features and enthusiastic demeanour make him the perfect choice for James and it is easy to forget you are watching a man and not a seven-year-old boy.
Musical talent shines from every member of this cast and their appearance when playing and singing together while crammed into the giant stage peach - a feat of engineering in itself - is not unlike a joyful scene in a Dublin pub. Genuinely heart-warming stuff.