The story opened in New York with a tourist guide taking her group to see a house in Central park, which was made from a giant peach stone. James stepped out of the house and took over the story from there, telling the audience about his parents’ tragic death at the horns of a bad-tempered rhino (Dahl did seem to have a macabre fondness for orphaning children in his books); his time spent with his two aunts (who were supposedly acting in loco parentis but in true pantomime style were wicked to the core); the mysterious stranger who gifted James a bag of wriggling green lights with the promise that they were magic; the peach that grew to the size of a small planet and the wonderful bunch of animal friends who were waiting for James inside it.
The set design worked perfectly, making the most of the limited space at the OFS. The giant peach took centre stage and was easily turned around to reveal the inside of the stone where James’ new friends – the grasshopper, ladybird, worm, centipede and spider were all waiting for him. All the creatures were a joy to watch in their colourful costumes and they all had great comic timing, but the woeful worm and the giddy grasshopper were my particular favourites.
An unforeseen treat was the music – I didn’t realise there would be songs in the show, but quite a few little ditties had been written for the occasion and they worked really well. It was slightly surprising to see a very obvious girl playing the role of James, but the children in the audience did not seem to notice, they were having a great time and one tiny little girl close to me kept shouting out “this is really funny, Daddy”, and it was – well worth seeing.