As soon as we entered the theatre we could already see a change from previous years. The stage also takes up part of the floor and even the sides of the theatre are used at some point. You are certainly a lot closer to the action and more involved with the production than in previous years.
My children haven't read Roald Dahl's classic tale of James and the Giant Peach yet and my memory of the story was sketchy at best so we settled into out seats and waited for the tale to begin.
James and the Giant Peach is fast paced from the outset with scooters whizzing around the stage, basketballs being passed about, singing, dancing and skipping. There are a lot of characters to remember from the Old Green Grasshopper the Miss Spider. There is a lot going on and there's always something new to watch on stage which means that the 2 hour show is over in a flash. Not once did my 5 year old ask when was it over which is very unusual.
What really stands out in this performance is just how immersive the whole experience is. It honestly feels as if the whole theatre is the stage and as if the audience is part of the cast. From encouraging the kids to 'Dab' (they'll know what to do), to bubbles, flying seagulls and a giant inflatable peach that is passed around the theatre, there is LOADS of fun to be had and the kids will really enjoy themselves I promise. I LOVED the under water scenes in the second half and the use of props, music and staging is honestly the best I've ever seen. I don't ever need to swim in the ocean with jellyfish now as I feel like I've already ticked this from my list, albeit in a theatre in Newcastle.
James and the Giant Peach is recommended for children aged 5+ (although there were younger children in the audience who seemed to enjoy it just fine) and there are a couple of scarier parts that you should be wary of if your children are particular sensitive - a giant Rhino escapes from the zoo and kills James' parents for example and the storm scene near the end features some scary looking creatures and it is so realistic you do feel as if you are actually part of the storm. My three managed with these scenes just fine though and nobody in the audience seemed upset.
As well as the staging and immersive experience, the music really stands out. The music is original and all played live, usually by the cast themselves and it really is a special treat.
The sold out performance ended with a standing ovation from both children and their grown ups. I really think James and the Giant Peach offers phenomenal value. The acting, music, costumes, staging and storytelling is honestly up there with any West end performance I've ever seen. I often wonder why Northern Stage don't take these shows on a UK tour as I'm sure they would do extremely well. For now though, I'm happy to keep this talented team as Newcastle's little secret.
Tickets are still available from just £10 for performances until 31st December. The performance doesnt' feel 'Christmassy' in the slightest and I think it's the perfect tonic to the never-ending festivities and I would recommend for all ages. Perhaps you even could buy tickets for yourself, the kids and their grandparents as a gift this Christmas. I can't think of a nicer gift and I promise you won't regret it.
Press Image Credits : Topher McGillis
Disclosure : We were provided with press tickets in return for an honest review.