Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The BFG

Roald Dahl, adapted by David Wood
The Dukes, Lancaster
(2011)

The BFG publicity image

A good choice by director Joe Sumsion for the Christmas play at the Dukes. There was a definite buzz as the audience came in and seated itself, a bit of a gamble opening in late November but the auditorium felt full when the houselights went down - and it will surely build as the word gets out.

The BFG opens in the orphanage as Sophie, touchingly and innocently played by Rachel Drazek, wakes up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. When she looks out of the window she sees, in the moonlight, a GIANT walking through the streets. Her friends don't believe her and go back to sleep but she watches as the giant looks through windows until he sees her, seizes her and runs off taking her to giant country.

'But he's not really a giant,' came the voice of a small child in the audience!

Sophie is terrified that the giant will eat her, but the Big Friendly Giant, BFG to his friends, does not eat humans. The other giants do though - Childchewer, Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and Bonecruncher, in their wonderfully exaggerated masks and costumes are deliciously horrible and wonderfully frightening.

Sophie, when with the BFG, is played by a manikin, a Sophie doll, and the transitions are smooth from doll to normal size. The BFG is played with great zest, enthusiasm and gentleness by Robert Pickavance, an actor with wonderfully exaggerated body and facial gestures that totally fit this part. Amanda Bellamy plays Childchewer, Mrs Plumridge and the Queen of England, Louisa Eyo is Bloodbottler, Rebecca, Mary the Maid and the Queen of Sweden. Richard Hand is Fleshlumpeater, Richard Simpkins, Mr Tibbs and the Head of the Airforce. Mark Pearce is Head of the Army, Sam, Headmaster and Bonecruncher.

Roald Dahl's special way with real, fractured and invented words is magical and the audience, young and old loved the whizzpopping. So many magical sequences: dream-catching, the human-eating giants hunting for their prey, the Queen of England and a delightfully scatty sequence when the Head of the Army and Head of the Airforce mount a campaign to capture the giants. The film of the campaign, by Kriss Foste - think Thunderbirds after Arts Council cuts - is a gem.

The associate director is Louie Ingham. Costumes and sets by Alison Hefferman are storybook style and brightly coloured. Music and sound design by Mark Melville, sound by Amy Clary, very effective lighting by Brent Lees.

This is an enjoyable, fun, production, probably more suitable for children over 6 but one young girl, possibly no older than 5, who chattered enthusiastically all the way through, was clearly enjoying herself and amusing the audience. At the end, in the blackout, her voice came through the silence, 'Bye, bye BFG'. After the show, in the bar, she was introduced to the BFG, was all eyes - and silent.

"The BFG" runs until 7th January 2012.

Reviewer: Denis W McGeary