James and the Giant Peach, Merlin Theatre, Frome

THE Merlin’s in-house Christmas show is always a sell-out. This year is no exception and the eager audience is certainly in for a treat.

Once again Claudia Pepler has directed and inspired the show, adapted for the stage by David Wood and based on Roald Dahl’s ever popular book. It’s full of fun and adventure, and at its heart is a very confident and clever young boy who overcomes a difficult start – his parents, on a trip to England, were killed by a rogue rhinoceros and he was banished to live with two truly terrible aunties.

By the time we meet James he’s living in the lap of droop luxury in a house made from the stone of a giant peach in the middle of Central Park in New York, surrounded by his loyal friends, a centipede, a grasshopper, an earthworm, a spider and a ladybug. But it’s how he got there that spins the enchantment of the story.

As always, the Merlin company can rely on fine musicians, versatile actors, flexible dancers and a very able technical team. Back projections found their way onto the Frome stage before they did to the professional pantos in larger cities and towns!

There are two youngsters playing James, and we saw George Thomas, certainly a star in the making. He’s 12 and his dad Richard plays Auntie Sponge, but George is clearly in charge from the moment he first appears to the final curtain.

The cast includes many young dancers, as visitors to the peach, seagulls, fishes and many other Marvellous Things (good song, that one)

MD and composer Ben Hardy-Phillips adds his songs to the show’s originals by Rene Aubry.

The principal characters in the large cast, revelling in the space provided by the Merlin stage, are Sue Crocker, Matt Dawkins, Davey Evans, Abi Holmes, Dave Merritt-Johns, Chris Redmond, Sophie Wakeley, Tom Woolman, and Eddie Young, but this is a real ensemble show, and the audience contributes to the festive experience.

Well done for another year’s great show.


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