DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
Brentwood Theatre Company at Brentwood Theatre
A very different kind of magic from last year – no music, no dancing, but a low-key bedtime story, moving and uplifting, which in David Wood's faithful adaptation captures the love and loyalty at the heart of Dahl's 1975 original.
It's a tale of poachers and pheasants, rich and poor, with plenty of food for thought as well as excitement and suspense.
Against David Zelly's cheerful cardboard cut-out design – the caravan and the cars play a key role here – Danny and his Dad take on the squire and his gamekeepers, sharing the secret ways of taking gamebirds: the horse-hair stopper, the sticky hat, and the boy's own invention, the sleeping beauty.
An enthusiastic cast of seven is headed by Jackson Pentland's gentle father and Porl Matthews' convincing Danny – their relationship is compellingly portrayed in several intimate scenes, Danny's adolescent frustration and fearlessness against his Dad's worldly-wise affection for his only son.
Both the doctor and the taxi driver are women in this version [Abi Taylor Jones and Joelle Campbell] – good strong performances, though I'm not sure why the doctor and the vicar's wife [Elka Lee-Green] speak like country bumpkins.
The villains include Allen Watts' gamekeeper Rabbetts – he also plays the kindly village copper – and Lee White's hilarious Hazell, working the audience in traditional melodramatic fashion, with a sneer, a glance, a flick of his jacket. His apoplexy at the sabotage of his shooting party is a highlight of the show, as is the involvement of the audience as his honorary beaters.
Ray Howes' heart-warming production is the ideal antidote to the deafening delights of the panto; an enchanting escape into a lost world of childhood.
production image: Carmel Jane Photography