Danny the Champion of the World

Roald Dahl, adapted by David Wood
Birmingham Stage Company presents a Sherman Theatre Cardiff production
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
(2007)

Production photo

This magical production proves Roald Dahl is still a champion for children's literature today. Danny may not be as popular as Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach, but it is, nevertheless, a heart-warming tale, moral and uplifting, without being too 'goody two-shoes'.

So we meet Danny living with his lovely, caring dad in their tumbledown caravan and eking out a living from their garage. Danny's dad has a deep, dark secret, though, which kids love, because being too nice would be boring. He's a poacher, who takes great delight in stealing pheasants from nasty landowner Mr Hazell's woods. Mr Hazell wants to evict Danny and his dad and the battle is on to save their home in a sneaky, thrilling adventure.

I had a young one helping me to review, and she thought the book worked well on stage. Some of the description in the book was sacrificed (inevitable really), but apart from that, she warmed to the characters of Danny and his Dad, and didn't seem at all bothered that an adult (Iain Ridley) was playing the part of Danny.

A youthful-looking Iain Ridley was, by the way, fantastic, all wide-eyed and innocent, and reminded me a little of Billy Elliot actor Jamie Bell. And Dad (Dafydd Emyr), a big strapping chap and a former rugby player, I'm told, gave a touching, believable performance.

Kids also really engaged with the wonderfully batty Dr Spencer, played by Nia Davies with a twinkle in her eye.

Birmingham Stage Company has a good reputation for producing quality theatre for children and in this wonderful adaptation by playwright David Wood (who has adapted six of Dahl's classics for the stage) it has a winner.

Here we have a very talented cast, small but perfectly formed, who looked like they were enjoying themselves. Many seemed adept at playing musical instruments, too, and there was a cosy ambience to the set when our talented little musical ensemble seemed to blend into the scenery at the sides of the stage.

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci