by Roald Dahl adapted by David Wood.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 11SB To 9 January 2016.
10.30am 4-7 Jan.
11am 8 Jan.
2pm 18, 19, 21-24, 26, 28-31 Dec, 2 Jan.
2.15pm 9 Jan.
7pm 18, 19, 21-24, 26, 28-31 Dec, 2, 8, 9 Jan.
Relaxed performances 8 Jan 11am & 7pm.
Runs 1hr 55 mi One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 December.
Highly charged theatricality with deeply dramatic sense of humanity.
This is the kind of non-panto Christmas show the Octagon knows well, and has been doing well enough for years. But new Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman, whose independent ways with well-known stories has been evident across several Bolton winters in her own localised reworkings of famous titles, is setting off along her new Octagon prominence by handing the Roald Dahl to director Sarah Esdaile, one of several intelligently inventive women directors to have emerged in recent decades through theatrical northern powerhouses.
They are all confident in handling the stage, draw fine performances from casts who seem fully committed to, and understanding of, why they are doing what they are doing (a desirable state, but one not always evident in theatres), and tell a story at once with direct simplicity and theatrical verve.
David Wood’s adaptation of Dahl’s novel provides a good structure, but it’s fleshed-out through the imaginative staging, from the opening robotic movements with which the inhabitants of the orphanage march themselves to bed. And the puppetry which brings the Big Friendly Giant to stand outside the window and scoop young Sophie away from her frightful existence.
She, in her loneliness, and he in his desire to be friendly among a race of giants whose names vividly describe their aggressive behaviour, form a genuine friendship that’s also a mutually encouraging retaliation against the forces of brutality and insensitivity around. The story of their alliance, told amid the other giants’ tread, with strong colours from Chris Davey’s lighting, builds to a lively climax with comically sympathetic monarchs enlisting their forces on the side of our heroine and hero.
Esdaile’s production offers its 5+ audiences an exciting, energetic and swift ride, smoothing the rough edges of Dahl’s writing and simple characterisation, but even more importantly giving a human heart to the author’s tale of triumph over institutional and peer-group oppression.
For, while Dahl’s power lies in vigour and passion rather than subtlety or humanity. It is the triumph of Esdaile and her cast that everything here reflects the novel’s strengths while adding an essential individual humanity which deepens the dramatic experience.
Bonecruncher/Orphan/Sam’s Father/Rebecca’s Classmate/Mr Tibbs: Richard Booth.
Fleshlumpeater/Orphan/Headmaster/Head of the Air Force: Philip Bosworth.
The Queen/ Mrs Clonkers/Miss Plumridge: Sarah Finigan.
Mary/Rebecca/Orphan/Queen of Sweden/News Reporter: Emma MacLennan.
Sophie: Mary Nyman.
Bloodbottler/Orphan/Sam/Rebecca’s Classmate/Head of the Army: Roddy Peters.
The BFG: John Seaward.
Director: Sarah Esdaile.
Designer: Janet Bird.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Movement: Luy Cullingford.
Puppets: Michael Fowkes.
Assistant director: Ben Occhipinti.