James and the Giant Peach
Mixed appeal from a faithful but slap-dash Roald Dahl adaptation
Staying close to Roald Dahl's original, UCLA's adaptation of James and the Giant Peach finds plenty of the gory unpleasantness that made the book appealing. In many ways, it is a welcome alternative to the big touring version which doesn't quite find that vicious edge.
There is plenty of enthusiasm here and a couple of decent performances, notably from the horrible aunts. But it is uneven. The narrator seems to think that waving her arms around is a substitute for acting, while the actor playing James delivers her lines with a breathy intensity as a substitute for nuance.
The big downside to this student production is its lamentable lack of attention to the details. There is potentially decent use of shadow puppetry to tell the elements of the story that are more difficult to stage – the charging rhinoceros which killed James' parents or the wildly growing peach, for example. Sadly the results are hidden from a significant part of the audience in the thrust space. Although at times they are better off, given the slap-dash creation of the shadows.
Young fans of the original will always enjoy a reasonably faithful telling of it, but the more discerning will be too distracted by the production's failings to truly immerse themselves in the story.
ZOO, until 27 Aug (not 22), 2.45pm.