November 21, 2011
Banbury Cross Players @ The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, 17th November 2011There’s an enchanting evening waiting for you at The Mill in this group’s bold departure from traditional pantomime. Dahl’s beautifully imaginative story has been expertly adapted by David Wood and is warmly brought to life in a charming, well acted, and expertly directed production.
After young James is orphaned by a rogue rhinoceros in Oxford Street, he is sent to live with his two vindictive and cruel aunts (for once, beautifully presented as real people by Nik and Clare Lester), who make him thoroughly miserable, until an enigmatic Old Man gives him five magic beans to aid his escape. James trips up, spills the beans, and believes his chance has gone, but a huge peach grows where the beans fell, and a group of benign insects grow into human-size characters, bent on helping him escape his cruel life. So begins a global journey, encounters with seagulls and sharks and a loyal bond of friendship between James and his five new friends.
Audience response was muted last night, mainly because there was a huge gap in the seating where a block booking of fifty people, who never arrived, should have been, and the first performance suffered from low energy, slow pace, and tedious scene changes, but I’m certain that things will tighten up in a technically demanding show, and nothing can stop this endearing tale from searing through the small stumbles. The acting, singing and dancing are all superb - particularly that of James’s heroic friends. Bob Clement has two beautiful cameo characters and Max Stafford as James has a particularly watchable and charming manner. The whole company now needs to take confidence from their achievement, become more bold and relish telling us this gorgeous tale; they seemed to be slightly unsure that their show is good – it is!