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

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.

Production Information

Production
James and the Giant Peach
Venue
Northern Stage
City
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Starts
November 19, 2016
Ends
December 31, 2016
Press night
November 21, 2016
Authors
Roald Dahl
Adaptation
David Wood
Director
Mark Calvert
Musical director
Jeremy Bradfield
Choreographer
Martin Hylton
Set
Rhys Jarman
Lighting
Colin Grenfell
Sound
Nick John Williams
Stage manager
Eleanor Pappworth
Production manager
Chris Durant
Cast includes
Stan Hodgson, Alice Blundell, Michael Blair, Maria Crocker, Clara Darcy, Tim Dalling, Jeremy Bradfield, Lana Walker
Producer
Northern Stage
Running time
2hrs