Some books are so well-known to their child readers that every variation required by translation from page to stage is a matter for some concern. Take the David Wood adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG which tells of the adventures of orphan Sophie and a certain big friendly giant.
The framing device for this staging is a birthday party where family and guests act out the story. Sean Crowley’s designs echo this with a series of fcut-out sets and gauzes that are rounded or angular and disproportionate furnishings, such as the bunk bed, the doll’s house and the dressing-up box (which then offers a different sort of treasure-trove). The headgear which transforms party guests into thoroughly unpleasant giant ghouls gains added mystery from Ceri James’s atmospheric lighting.
Becky John makes a thoroughly believable Sophie, a bright girl who can cope with most of the pellets life is aiming at her, though she’s glad to find allies – even if not those she might have expected. Anthony Pedley in the title role has a nicely world-weary air as he battles his enemies and attempts to right the wrongs they inflict. His alter-ego giant manifestation, the twinkling props and the glove and shadow puppets are all designed by Susie Caulcutt and work splendidly.
An other-worldly score by Paula Gardiner is played by the other members of the acting ensemble; it has twelve-note as well as tonal references and uses mainly wind and brass. Heather Phoenix and Naomi Lee Schulke are particularly effective in their regal roles; Adam Baxter and Darrell Brockis in their supporting ones.
Phil Clark’s direction keeps the action on the move and ensures that the marvellous invented and muddled-up words of the BFG seem as natural and easy to understand as anyone could wish. Dahl’s anarchic sense of humour is something the child in all of us can easily recognise. And to which we respond. Night terrors should always have a bright resolution as dawn breaks.