James and the Giant Peach – Palace Theatre, June 25th

Kester writes:

When I was a child I loved Roald Dahl’s books and like any good parent I have indoctrinated my children at the earliest opportunity (we are working our way through his canon chapter by chapter at bedtime), so when I realised that James and the Giant Peach was opening in Westcliff on my birthday I couldn’t miss the opportunity to brainwash the kids further.

We were all familiar with the story having read the book together earlier in the year and I was interested to see how closely the production would follow the novel within the confines of the theatre. I am one of those people who can’t help thinking “that’s different to the book” however good an adaptation is, but there were very few of those moments on the night and, in fact, one of the most impressive aspects of the show were the numerous innovative techniques used to portray some of the fantastic concepts in the story (which, you may recall, is about a giant peach that crosses the Atlantic crewed by gigantic invertebrates).

The show had a good level of audience participation which I think is very engaging for young children (mine are five and four), without sinking to pantomime levels and my favourite part was my son getting to shake hands with Aunt Spiker during the performance even though we were nine rows back. There were moments of “mild peril” that the story required, but these were handled lightly so that even the smallest of children would not have been scared for more than a moment.

There were strong performances from all the cast, who mostly played many parts and the majority of whom also provided the music, with guitar, violin, double bass, clarinet, French horn and drums all being visible and integral to the performance. I have to give particular credit to the actor playing the eponymous James. A grown man playing a very convincing young boy – not as creepy as it sounds.

Overall, the children and I had a lovely evening out and it was well worth keeping the kids up a little late for.


To find out what else is on at Southend Theatres, take a look at their website: http://www.southendtheatres.org.uk

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