James and the Giant Peach, one of Roald Dahl's most popular tales, contains all the hallmark ingredients that make him a special storyteller. Plucky young James (Joel Chalfen) loses two loving parents and becomes downtrodden 'Cinderella' to a pair of wicked, and exceptionally ugly aunts. But fairy magic twinkles in to save James, and bring retribution to those revolting relations, in the form of a giant peach, home to a band of creepy-crawlies.
They take James under their various wings and things. We're talking sweet natured-Ladybird (Claire Jeater), Fiddle-playing Grasshopper (Shaun Glanville), fussy Centipede (Timothy Speyer, glamorous Spider (Laura McFall) and argumentative Earthworm Benedict Martin). The future is bright - and definitely orange - thanks to that giant, sexy-looking peach. It proves a useful multi-purpose vehicle, and James proves a resourceful lad who saves the day in many adventures until all live happily ever after in New York's Central Park.
If you think I'm giving away the end, it's no more than adapter David Wood does right at the start of this fun show. I'd rather have waited till later to meet the peach dwellers - and finding out about their new lives in the Big Apple could have waited to the end. But taking my cue from a packed house of children on half-term, accompanied by equally eager adults, I have to admit we all followed the antics of James and his various families as attentively as the unwrapping of several hundred sweets would allow.
Wood's purpose is to allow James and his multi-species family to act as narrators and take other parts as necessary, and it proves an effective storytelling device.
Jacqueline Trousdale's colourful designs are as delicious as any sweetie. The multi-purpose peach house is a useful acting area and the underwater scene, so reminiscent of my screensaver, is quite magical. Those ugly aunties (played by two disguised cast members) are absolutely fabulously wicked (with wicked purple hair!) and check out the pantomime sharks and rhinos!
In the fall-out from the 11 September tragedy, the peach's arrival in New York had to be changed. Instead of colliding with the Empire State Building, it's wafted ashore by the audience, as a giant ball sent bowling round the auditorium. This is potentially a great piece of audience participation, but the company could have made more of it, with a bigger ball and more time allowed for eager young audience members to join in the fun.