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James and the Giant Peach

Date

25th May 2019

Society

Kingsley Players

Venue

Kingsley Community Centre

Type of Production

Play

Director

Jake Powell

Report

Author: Joe Clarke

I was delighted to return to Kingsley Community Centre this evening to see the youth production of James and the Giant Peach.  Following on from their brilliant production of ‘Peterloo’ earlier this year, Kingsley Players have produced another great show!  I’m embarrassed to say that I have never read this book, nor have I ever seen this play, but I enjoyed it very much. 

The director for this play was Jake Powell.  No doubt, directing this play would’ve been a logistical nightmare.  Having a giant peach onstage that flies through the air, carried by Seagulls, then lands on top of the Empire State building – I mean – just how do you even go about staging this play?  Jake had a clear vision and it certainly worked!  The clever staging and costume design enabled the audience to be transformed into the world of Roald Dahl.  The characters on the peach were extremely well rehearsed and the pace was excellent.  The action constantly takes place on top of, and inside the peach, and it was clear from the direction where each of the locations were.  I’ll admit, it took me a little while to understand the concept – and I still don’t know how James came to be on the peach, but once I realised the concept, I was fully on-board.  Jake and his team deserve a pat on the back for the clever staging.  I loved the way in which the peach was created – it actually looked like a peach.  The ocean liner was also effective and deserved the applause it received. 

The costumes were nothing short of brilliant!  I loved the costume design for each character and it certainly helped with character development.  A huge tip of the hat must go to Joan Barker for her wonderful creations!  I loved them!

Lighting was relatively basic, but this production didn’t need anything else.  The lighting that was used, was used well and was effective in its purpose.

Songs and sound effects were used to help establish location and to add another layer to the overall piece.  I felt that the level was ever so slightly too loud as I couldn’t hear some of the dialogue but I’m being really picky here. 

Guy Pearson played the role of the protagonist, James.  Guy certainly looked the part.  He exuberated confidence and was vocally very strong.  His projection was excellent, and he had lovely timing and intonation.  A few times I saw James slip out of character to look at the audience and smile, but overall, I really enjoyed his performance.

Maddison Withey played the role of the Narrator.  For me, Maddison looked a little tentative and walked around the space a little tentatively.  I would’ve preferred more energy and more commitment to the role of the storyteller.  I doubt any of the audience would’ve noticed this, however.  Maddison was vocally better in the second act.  Her narration was good during the Ocean Liner scene.

Ben Mather-Dodd was the star of the show for me as the Centipede.  He exuberated confidence and looked very comfortable on stage.  Ben played his small guitar at times and sang very fast patter songs.  His diction, articulation and storytelling was excellent!

Matthew Betteridge was funny and entertaining as Earthworm.  His costume was excellent too!  Matthew also had great projection and told his story well.  He had good delivery of his lines and good comic timing.

The grasshopper, Iona Anstice, was a little laid back and dropped the energy a little.  Despite this, she had good storytelling and looked the part.  Her costume was also very good.  She had a nice rapport with the others too.

Kate Burge played the role of the ladybird.  Kate’s projection was excellent!  She had a really good speaking voice, and this added to her character.  She was also a good storyteller.

Teigan Withey’s Spider was very entertaining.  I loved the sassy characteristics that Teigan brought.  She was good to watch and had a good rapport with the others.

Even though the glow worm didn’t have that many lines, Olivia Taylor did very well and held her own throughout.  She looked like she was having a great time on stage and she worked well with the others too.

Aunt Sponge (Matthew Burge) and Aunt Spiker (Amelia Partridge) did well at the beginning to set the tone for the evening.  Both were entertaining to watch and funny too.  I would’ve preferred a little more diction and articulation, particularly as it was the opening of the play, but they did well nevertheless.

Other character were played by Benjamin Aulicino and Ruby Taylor.  All actors were very well rehearsed, and this play was very entertaining to watch.  I loved the overall concept and was impressed by the direction, the costumes, and the obvious talent of the youth at this society. 

Congratulations to Kingsley Players for another enjoyable production.  I look forward to retuning later in the year to see Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves – one of my favourite plays!