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James and the Giant Peach at Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘epic and energetic’

James and the Giant Peach at Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Photo: Topher McGrillis

It’s not just the fruit that’s oversized in Northern Stage’s production of Roald Dahl’s 1961 novel James and the Giant Peach. Everything about this show is big, bold and confident.

Dahl’s tale of an orphan who escapes the clutches of his evil aunts in an enchanted peach with a group of talking invertebrates is played out on Rhy Jarman’s vast set, evoking mid 20th century New York. Employing such large space is a risky strategy as it could easily dwarf the actors. However, the tireless ensemble own every inch of the space, delivering an assured and energetic performance, powered by Jeremy Bradfield’s 1950s style show tunes and Martin Hylton’s ebullient choreography. Michael Blair is particularly engaging as both James’ grotesquely fat Aunt Sponge and as the morose earth worm, while Maria Crocker shines as the charismatic shoe-loving centipede.

Mark Calvert’s fast and furious direction is impressive even if occasionally clarity of plot is sacrificed for pace. The young audience never have the opportunity to get bored and particularly appreciate the show’s interactive moments such as helping to keep the giant peach in the air and being transported under the sea as bubbles descend on them from the roof of the auditorium.

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Verdict
An epic and energetic treatment of Dahl’s much-loved classic.
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