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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Theatre review: James and the Giant Peach

Published in the Guardian
Dundee Rep
Three stars

ONCE upon a time, all the theatre directors in the land decided it was their duty to provide an alternative to pantomime. They would call these performances Christmas shows and would fashion them out of the fairy stories that had inspired their commercial cousins, except these would be proper plays. 

All the boys and girls loved them and even the grown-ups were happy. But one day an evil spell was cast and the directors suddenly grew tired of their Cinderellas and their Snow Queens. "Surely there's something different we can put on," they cried. "What about some Roald Dahl?"

And there was no doubt that when they put on James and the Giant Peach in the short, sharp adaptation by David Wood, the children were happy. They liked it when director Jemima Levick made it look like the peach was growing with a series of ever-bigger orange umbrellas. They liked it when the insects became human-sized and took off on an adventure across the Atlantic. And they liked it when the peach appeared as an enormous orange balloon that bounced around the auditorium. 

But something was missing. It wasn't exactly that this story had nothing to do with Christmas or even winter, although that was an issue. It was more that its emphasis on escapist fantasy (a flying peach!) overshadowed the impulse for reconciliation that characterised the great archetypal narratives. 

After the death of James's Ugly-Sister aunts and the early conclusion of his Cinderella story, the boy, played attractively by Thomas Cotran, had to complete a long journey to New York without having any comparable emotional territory to cover. It made his victory seem hollow. This spiritual emptiness was exacerbated by the amplification of the actors, their well observed performances diminished by the air of frantic noisiness. The result was a peach-flavoured sweet instead of a genuine fruit.

© Mark Fisher 2014 
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