More and more theatres are moving away from the traditional festive-fueld pantos nowadays in an attempt to give audiences something different. Yes admittedly a lot of the gags and songs are the same in pantos but isn’t that why we like them? It’s tradition.
This year, The Rep breaks tradition again with its new production of Roald Dahl classic The BFG, adapted by David Wood. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t really grow up on Road Dahl. I remember seeing the film of The BFG but don’t remember the story fully so I was rather looking forward to being transported into the land of the Giants and beyond. It seems I may have missed the bus though.
The BFG tells the story of Sophie, a little orphan girl who is plucked from her bed by the Big Friendly Giant whilst he’s out spreading happy dreams to children in the human world. Sophie is thrust into a world that’s larger than life, coming face to face with snozzcumbers, Bonecrunchers and Gizzardgulpers. Determined to stop the evil giants from kidnapping and eating children she embarks on a mission with The BFG which sees them fighting for both Queen and Country alongside Elizabeth the second.
With so much potential to draw upon from Dahl’s fantastically world, I left feeling a tad deflated and underwhelmed by the performance. For some reason it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be, combining shadow play, circus skills and mask work with the odd song inbetween. Sophie came across more like a spoilt brat than I remember from the film – and the short musical interludes felt like they were trying to encrouch on the popular production of Matilda by The RSC.
The cast themselves were incredibly talented, with Lara Wollington (Sophie) having the stand out performance. Joshua Manning’s BFG was perhaps reminiscent of someone who needed a good wash, however he played the role well as he strode across the stage spreading dreams and whizzpoppers.
All in all I left the theatre feeling disappointed – wishing The BFG to be so much more than it actually was. The younger members of the audience seemed to enjoy the show much more than I did with certain scenes causing fits of giggles, however there are some darker scenes which perhaps aren’t suitable for younger children. I think I may stick to my pantos.
The BFG runs until 24th January at Birmingham Rep. For more information and to book tickets visit birmingham-rep.co.uk