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James and the Giant Peach (Susan Elkin reviews)

Cambridge Theatre Company  is a very young company which, for a non-pro outfit, manages to be pleasingly professional and I admire the range of work it is beginning to present.

This enjoyable show uses a cast of five adults, one juvenile lead (James Malpas at the performance I saw) plus a thoughtfully directed young ensemble. It’s a jolly, upbeat piece – not least because veteran playwright, David Woold adapts Roald Dahl’s irreverent grotesqueness and child centred warmth so very well.

The story is so familiar to the children in the audience that they can chorus back the right answers for the cast at the beginning. Orphaned James escapes from his two appalling gaurdian aunts by whizzing off to America inside a giant peach with the five creatures he meets therein. As the titular James, James Malpas develops the character well during the action. This is a bereft child who grows into a enterprising team leader and James Malpas catches that very deftly.

All five adults are good value with Adam Bond standing out as Centipede. He is a charismatically versatile actor. His centipede is gor-blimey and lovably self important. Bond also doubles as the completely different outrageously awful Aunt Spiker and then as a rather delicious ship’s captain voiced like Kenneth More in heightened RP. He really is very talented. Alan Hay’s dour Scottish Earthworm is delightful too – eventually triumphing in an act of bravery which suddenly humanises him.

There’s also some lovely work from the eight children in the ensemble. They have small speaking parts as narrators and they work well as a shoal of marauding sharks and a flock of seagulls – among other things.

Jasmine Haskell’s set is impressive. The stage is dominated by the framing peach and she makes interesting use of the revolve when it swings to reveal the open fruit. There are some sparky songs too (original music by James Ingram) ably accompanied on keyboard from one of the Great Hall’s galleries.

You couldn’t fail to be entertained by this show. It encapsulates all the requisite Dahl-esque quirkiness and is a lot of fun.

This review was first published by Sardines:http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Cambridge%20Theatre%20Company%20-James%20and%20the%20Giant%20Peach&reviewsID=3072

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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