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A Delicious Peachy Serving of Fun and Laughter!

Zoe Mortimer: Ladybird; Richard Sandle-Keynes: Old Green Grasshopper; Emma Beasley: Miss Spider; Steve Bizley: Earthworm; Tom Purchase-Rathbone: Centipede. Photo courtesy of The Bear Pit.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, adapted for the stage by David Wood, directed by Emily Myerscough. At the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from 1 – 10 December 2023.

Review by Ann Evans

Prepare for a magical journey across land, sea and sky, with James and the Giant Peach, a Roald Dahl favourite that tells the story of young James Trotter, orphaned when a rampaging rhinoceros eats his parents and he’s then then sent to live with his cruel Aunt Sponge (Pamela Hickson) and Aunt Spiker (Dee Alder) who are diabolical to him.

One day a mysterious old man (Barry Purchase-Rathbone) gives him a bag of magical beans – one grows into a giant peach. James crawls inside the peach and discovers some rather unusual bugs. They become friends and embark on a wild adventure that takes them across the ocean to New York and happiness.

Taking alternate roles, James - L-R: Jasper Hadley, Hal Sandle-Keynes.

The production, directed by Emily Myerscough who also directed the 2022 sell-out success, The Twits, is pure fun for all ages. So simply forget your troubles, sit back and enjoy the whacky humour of Centipede (Tom Purchase-Rathbone), Ladybird (Zoe Mortimer), Miss Spider (Emma Beasley), Old Green Grasshopper (Richard Sandle-Keynes), and Earthworm (Steve Bizley). Boo those two brilliantly diabolical Aunts – Sponge and Spiker, who really are horribly hilarious!

Well done to the Children Ensemble: Sophie Sparks, Hattie Jamieson, Paige Hopper and Madison Griffiths, who take on a multitude of characters from a man-eating rhinoceros to a flock of seagulls. And of course, the backstage crew and set builders tasked to create a very large peach, suitable to house a number of talking bugs and a bright little boy called James.

Centipede - Tom Purchase-Rathbone. Photo courtesy of The Bear Pit.

As for James, two young actors are playing this role – Hal Sandle-Keynes and Jasper Hadley. At the dress rehearsal I was fortunate enough to attend, Jasper Hadley charmed the audience with his kind and sweet ways. I’m sure Hal Sandle-Keynes will be equally as good.

This is a feelgood play with imaginative sets, cute props, cheery songs, excellent sound and visual effects and a cast who are revelling in the humour and wonderous characters created by the genius Roald Dahl.


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