Following the success of James and the Giant Peach, Director Sarah Esdaile returns to Bolton Octagon to direct another Roald Dahl classic. In this adaptation by David Wood, The BFG tells the magical story of a little girl called Sophie who lives in the village orphanage. One night, Sophie spies a huge cloaked figure blowing something into the bedroom window further down the street and before she can hide from this mysterious creature, she is picked up and taken to his home in Giant Country.
Luckily for Sophie this giant is the BFG, one of the good guys – friendly, entertaining and most importantly kind hearted. He goes around at night when people are asleep to make sure that they have good dreams.
Obviously, one of the most challenging demands of producing a stage show of The BFG is managing to create the illusion of scale and height between the giants and little Sophie. Clever puppetry directed and designed by Michael Fowkes works perfectly – a delicately animated smaller version of Sophie and a trio of three huge bone-crunching ogres certainly does the trick.
Janet Bird’s design sees the Octagon main stage set on two levels allowing swift movement between scenes and different settings from the orphanage where Sophie lives to the formidable Giant Country. The design has a wonderfully home crafted quality to it – the giants with their huge papier-mâché heads and the use of cardboard and newsprint throughout. With comical dream sequences and a visit to Buckingham Palace, the story is told effectively and in a way that children can follow with ease. From the BFG’s head appearing at the Queen’s bedroom window to making Facetime calls on a huge iPhone – the design elements are a highlight.
Macy Nyman makes a noteworthy stage debut as Sophie, beautifully expressive and childlike, providing a wonderful narration as she brings the puppet of Sophie to life.
John Seaward is instantly loveable as the BFG – full of energy, kindness and humour – with a full head of flaming orange hair, he looks considerably different to the familiar Quentin Blake drawings. Introducing Sophie to his wondrous imaginative language, where the words sound very similar to English or are completely made up – so beautifully typical of Roald Dahl.
The talented pyjama-clad double up to play a range of different characters – Richard Booth, Philip Bosworth and Roddy Peters as the booming, ruthless ogres; Sarah Finigan impresses as The Queen and the cantankerous Mrs Clonkers and Emma MacLennan also adapts to a number of roles demonstrating her versatility as a performer.
Recommended for ages 5 and over, this is a fantastic ensemble production with a lot of heart. The BFG at Bolton Octagon offers families a high-quality production and a pleasing alternative from the traditional Christmas pantomime.
The BFG runs at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton until 9 January 2016.