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James and the Giant Peach

Scene from James and the Giant Peach at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Robert Day Scene from James and the Giant Peach at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Robert Day

Fondly remembered in these parts for last year’s family drama Friend or Foe, director Matthew Cullum returns to Colchester with an enchanting stage adaptation of this 1961 Roald Dahl children’s classic.

Quite the presence and literally central to proceedings, even the master storyteller himself would surely approve of Trina Bramman’s interpretation of the real star – the peach. Inventive in all its varied incarnations, those with vivid imaginations will not be disappointed.

Likewise, an impressive New York City backdrop finale, complete with imposing street signs, leaves the audience in no doubt of their arrival in the Big Apple.

Capturing the boyish charm we expect from our lead character, wide-eyed James Le Lacheur is brimming with excitement, while Mercury favourite Dale Superville taps into his panto repertoire for both comedic Centipede and grotesque Aunt Sponge.

Also demonstrating great versatility, Matthew Rutherford switches effortlessly between the equally repulsive Aunt Spiker and his delightfully dour, downbeat Earthworm.

Completing the cast of actor-musicians, accomplished violinist Pete Ashmore brings a sunny disposition to Grasshopper, complimented by the talents of both Josie Dunn as the slick Miss Spider and Kate Adams’ apprehensive Ladybird. Together, this is an assorted package capable of captivating musical numbers such as Marvellous Things.

There remains a huge audience appetite for Dahl’s tales translated to stage and here the skilled puppetry, particularly of Barbara Hockaday, offers an added innovative dimension.

It’s strange to think that this is Mercury Theatre’s first ever summer family show. On this evidence here’s hoping it becomes an annual addition.

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Verdict
This sure-fire summer holiday success proves a delightful theatre introduction for the next generation
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