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James and the Giant Peach at Stirling Community Theatre - Review

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by Nathaniel Mason (subscribe)
Adelaide event photographer and writer, discovering, capturing and sharing the things that make SA a great place as a photographer, explorer and family.
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A Roald Dahl classic on Stage
Marvellous things are happening on the Stirling stage this winter as the Hills Youth Theatre bring the Roald Dahl classic, James and the Giant Peach to life. A talented young cast, string of incredible puppets, costumes and colour, and of course, a giant peach will transport you on a journey across continents, seas and characters.

An adaptation of a Roald Dahl classic, James and the Giant Peach follows the story of an orphan, James who is sent to live with his horribly awful Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker after his parents are killed in a terrible accident involving a rhino. One day, a curious little man appears, thrusting a faintly glowing bag at James and promising that his magic bag of "little green things" will free James from life with his terrible, cruel aunts. But when James drops the bag and the magic is sucked into the ground around an old peach tree, the most incredible thing happens... Greedy Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker selfishly seek riches from the resulting turn of events but James knows something else, something stranger than ever this time, is about to happen. With his new family of Old Green Grasshopper, Miss Spider, Ladybird, Earthworm, and Centipede in his enormous juicy dwelling, James embarks on a thrilling, surreal adventure.

james and the giant peach, hills youth theatre, south australia
James and his adventuring friends

Narrators Lucie Zodrow and Sophie Zodrow set the scene beautifully and throughout the show, introducing and crafting the story for an enthusiastic crowd of just how a giant peach stone came to rest in New York's Central Park. Casting back across the Atlantic, the story follows James and his incredible adventure. James Grosser is outstanding in the title character James Trotter, looking and acting the part to a tee. He captures the imagination of a young James and stark creative contrast to the appropriately selfish, greedy Matilda Doherty as Aunt Sponge and scant, grumpy Demelza Metha as Aunt Spiker.

Accompanying James on his journey, the 5 strong oversized insects each bring great life to their characters. Centipede, Bellarose Watts friendly banter with Sybella Schumacher as Earthworm brings plenty of humour, and Schumacher's interpretation of the handicapped but groovy worm amused plenty in the crowd. Completing the friendly large swarm, Claire Grosser as the Old Grasshopper, Teliah Shepherdson as Miss Spider and Bridget Spurr as Ladybird bring great characters to the story, accompanying James on his journey.

While the story is developed well in the first, the show really takes flight in the second act with amazing colour and movement. A host of costuming volunteers have brought directors Judy Sampson and Di Mason's vision to life with incredible scenes in the air, under the sea and in between. Puppetry is a terrific feature throughout the colourful scenes, filled with layers of movement and depth with floating seagulls, leaping fish and illuminating jellyfish.

james and the giant peach, hills youth theatre, south australia
James' parents before the unfortunate rhino incident

The set, constructed by Jon McKay and Peter Collins frames the astounding lush peach beautifully with a crafty design that fills the stage with colour and inspiration. To house a cast within and around a floating, bobbing and rolling giant peach is no mean feat and cleverly built, stepped stage brings height and depth. The set design is well supported by clever lighting and projected animations that bring continuity to the story.

The Hills Youth Theatre (HYT) commenced in 1986 and remains a community based non-profit organisation which provides quality drama education and performance opportunities to students aged from 5 to 25, in the Stirling and surrounding hills areas. Weekly classes and three performances a year are run in the Theatre under tuition of Judy Sampson, Di Mason and Nick Stagg. The aim of classes is to provide a fun approach to dramatic art through practical experience, that is, drama games and other drama skills. Many former students would be able to fondly reminisce of their time at HYT and attest to the skills, value and experience learnt through drama tuition and performance.

james and the giant peach, hills youth theatre, south australia
Adventuring on the high seas

James and the Giant peach was selected in a nod to the production that set the seed for the Hills Youth Theatre (HYT). In 1985, Stirling Community Theatre stalwart Tom Dyster wrote and produced a play in which children were cast for the Stirling Players: The Terribly Noisy Giant. The success of this production generated many requests from children and parents for a place for young people to learn about theatre, and from this HYT was born. 2016 also marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl and 30 years since the first performance by the Hills Youth Theatre, making it a very fitting coming together of two significant milestones and celebrations.

There are still limited seats left to see performances at the Stirling Community Theatre, 7 Avenue Road, Stirling on:

Friday, 1 July at 7.00pm
Saturday, 2 July at 5.00pm
Sunday, 3 July at 2.00pm

To see more current show details or to purchase tickets visit:

Prices are: adults $15, child/concession $12, family $48 (2 adults, 2 children).

Kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite story book character for a walk on stage!
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Why? Marvellous things are happening on the Stirling stage this winter as the Hills Youth Theatre
When: June 24 to July 3, 2016
Where: Avenue Road, Stirling, South Australia
Cost: Adults $15, child/concession $12, Family $48 (2 adults, 2 children)
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