After a two-year gestation Mrs. Mungus gives birth to a gigantic baby she names Hugh. The mutant baby attracts the unwanted attention of corrupt officials intending to clone the child and build an army of cute, but deadly, giants.
Directors Rosie Stuart and Josh Azouz use a variety of startlingly effective techniques to bring Hugh’s tale to life. Yards of bright blue cloth and bubbles cascading onto the audience simulate the breaking of Mrs. Mugus’s waters. Ben Moores uses massive papier-mâché floating arms and a head, manipulated by the cast, to create a very impressive giant baby. A gigantic nappy completes the image. Some of the techniques used are dictated by the nature of the cast -a voice over is required as part of the script is delivered in sign language.
It is hard to determine the target audience for Carl Grose’s play. The type of dark humour in, say, Roald Dahl’s tales is absent – apart from the odd fart joke there is not much to appeal to a very young audience. Grose writes a play that apportions decent parts amongst the cast but does not create a central character to whom the audience can relate.
The norfox Young People’s Theatre Company responds well to the technical demands of the production giving excellent performances of lively songs. Their cheeky style brings the humour out of the bewildering range of characters. But the efforts of the directors to challenge their cast results in a cramped production including methods that might be fun to perform but do not advance the plot.
At times enthusiasm is achieved at the expense of coherence. Lines are occasionally delivered in a mannered style and at a breathless pace. A poorly handled conclusion drains the drama from what ought to be a very powerful ending.
The nature of the norfox Young People’s Theatre Company makes it inevitable that their productions are used to develop the skills of the cast. Gargantua certainly achieves this objective requiring the cast to apply a wide range of techniques. The more basic skill of telling a story effectively is, however, less well handled.