This is the first time that The Giant Jam Sandwich, a children’s favourite first published in 1972, has been fully staged. John Vernon Lord, its illustrator, is a Derbyshire man, so there’s added relish for New Perspectives as an East Midlands touring company and they make a lovely job of bringing the story to an audience of small children.
Three versatile actors – Paul Critoph, Sarah Ratheram and Christopher Finn – bring to life the people of Itching Down and the vexed problem they are facing, which is how to get rid of four million wasps – “That’s New Zealand in wasp form.”
There’s the kindly Bap the Baker, the ebullient Farmer Seed, Lord Swell and a host of others including a German wasp expert, author of Vow! A Vasp! (there’s a layer of humour for the adults too). It’s engaging and interactive, with butter and jam to be discovered under seats (“Bring out your jam!”) and a baking song that requires a thump and a bump and a slap on the bottom.
Simplicity of staging and suspension of disbelief makes it the best kind of children’s theatre. They play about with scale and perspective to introduce a helicopter and a flying tractor, and create a billowing lump of dough and a very large slice of baked bread. As for the wasps themselves, a nasty buzzing is mostly all we see of them as they invade picnics and evade capture but it’s enough to make us believe, and all without an ounce of technical wizardry.