The BFG @ Palace Theatre, Watford

cast includes
Anthony Pedley, Becky John, Naomi Lee Schulke and Adam Baxter

directed by
Phil Clark

Roald Dahl’s The BFG is known to children (and their parents) the world over. It tells the story of little orphan Sophie who one night, unable to sleep, sees a giant blowing something into the bedroom windows across the street. Realising that he has been seen, this Big Friendly Giant plucks Sophie from her bedroom and takes her back to his cave in Giant Country.

There he explains to Sophie that he is a catcher of good dreams and it is these that he then blows into the windows of children. But not all the giants in Giant County are as nice as he is. Their names are a clue – Childchewer, Fleshlumpeater and Bonecruncher – they prefer to eat little children for breakfast. Knowing that something must be done to stop them, Sophie and The BFG enlist the help of the Queen of England who calls on the Army and the Air Force to tackle the giant problem.

With its multiple locations and its cast of giants and normal, human sized people, The BFG was never going to be an easy one to transfer to the stage, but David Wood, adapting Dahl’s book, has done a remarkable job.

His most significant change is to hand narration duties over to a little girl (also called Sophie), who, along with her friends, is acting out the story after her birthday party entertainer fails to show up. This device works a treat, as does the use of a puppet to play the character of Sophie in the story (thus making Anthony Pedley’s BFG believably giant like in comparison).

Director Phil Clark also does a solid job of handling the book’s different locations. Though he uses a puppet to play the role of Sophie in the first half, in the second half there is a switch over and Sophie is now normal size while he brings on a 20 foot tall puppet to play the BFG. The actors playing the nasty giants wear large, ugly masks and he uses shadow puppetery to show them taking off, by helicopter, for London.

The second half of the production is far more varied and inventive and some of the earlier scenes do feel a bit static and repetitive.

The performers playing the bad giants also provide the music, playing 25 different instruments between them. Their playing helps both in the creation of tension and in making things lively and fun.

While the cast are all very good in their roles, Becky John, as Sophie, embodies the enthusiasm of a small child and she also proves a skilled puppeteer.

This is a well crafted production that really brings the world of the book to life. It will be thoroughly enjoyed by children and provide a pleasurable trip down memory lane for adults wanting to remember one of the most iconic books of their childhood.

The BFG will be at Hackney Empire until 9 May and then touring the UK until October 2009

For further information and tour dates see the website

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