KickStArt create theatre magic with Roald Dahl’s classic ‘James and the Giant Peach’

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‘James and the Giant Peach’s’ five magically altered human-sized, talking garden bugs, (from left) Miss Spider (Clare Mortimer), Mr Green Grasshopper (Peter Court), Earthworm (Nhlakanipho Manqele), Centipede (Lyle Buxton), and Ladybird (Belinda Henwood). Photo: Val Adamson

ESTELLE SINKINS reviews KickStArt Theatre Company’s James and the Giant Peach, which is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN.

‘WOW!’ This single word uttered by my little niece, Tasha, sums up exactly what Greg King and the cast of James and the Giant Peach, deliver in KickStArt Theatre Company’s latest production.

At the heart of the story is little James Henry Trotter (played by multiple award-winner Bryan Hiles), whose life is turned upside down when his parents are killed by a runaway rhino when he is just four years old.

His idyllic life of seaside picnics with his kind and loving parents becomes a distant memory when he goes to live with his cruel aunts, Spiker (Clare Mortimer) and Sponge (Belinda Henwood). They force him to work and refuse to let him make friends or have toys. Things are so bad that James even writes to an orphanage to ask them to come and take him away.

Then he meets a magical man who gives him a gift – a bag full of tiny, green marvellous and magical things. When James loses his gift, however, the magic goes to work on the old peach tree in his aunts’ garden.

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From left: Belinda Henwood as evil Aunt Sponge, Bryan Hiles as James and Clare Mortimer as evil Aunt Spiker in ‘James and the Giant Peach’. Photo: Val Adamson

Overnight a peach begins to grow until it is giant size. And inside its seed are human-sized, talking garden bugs: Mr Green Grasshopper (Peter Court), whose musical abilities are doubtful; Centipede (Lyle Buxton), who can never get the number of his legs right; Earthworm (Nhlakanipho Manqele), who is squared of pretty much everything; Miss Spider (Mortimer), whose webs are amazing; and kindly Ladybird (Henwood).

With their help, James escapes from his evil aunties and goes on a larger than life adventure across the world.

King cleverly uses his actors and puppets to bring to life James’ rescue of Centipede from a shark, the capture of seagulls to lift their peach from the sea and the poignancy of his once happy life with his parents.

Adding to the delicious quirkiness of Roald Dahl’s 1961 classic are an array of colourful costumes created by Court, magical lighting from Tina le Roux, a quite superb range of props and sets designed and made by King, and music from the South Jersey Pom Poms.

The result is a production that will leave you entranced by the true magic of theatre. Book your seats now!

NEED TO KNOW
James and the Giant Peach is being staged at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College campus, until July 23. Performances are at 2.30 pm from Tuesday to Friday, 11 am and 3 pm on Saturday and 2.30 pm on Sunday. Tickets at Computicket. Please note: no babes in arms or children under three.

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