Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. Adapted for the stage by David Wood. Directed by James Scott. Honest Puck Theatre. Perform Australia Theatre. Jan 10-17.
Roald Dahl’s engaging tale of a boy growing up with a widowed dad involves poaching and pheasants and old cars and a gipsy caravan and a conniving villain and a good old fashioned sense of community.
Director James Scott has come up with a gentle and genial production that does justice to Dahl. He also takes on the role of Danny’s father with real life son Leo Scott as Danny. Their on-stage collaboration is funny and true.
Leo Scott carries Danny’s narration with assurance and a good humoured connection to the audience.
There’s a good supporting cast, with David Cain as the villainous Victor Hazel*, Brendan Kelly as (among others) a genial Sergeant Samways, Veronica Constance as a range of characters including the sensible Dr Spencer and Katherine Berry notable for Hazel’s none too bright sidekick Rabbetts.
Monica Engle is grand as Mrs Clipstone, the vicar’s resourceful wife, complete with a baby Clipstone in a wonderful old pram.
Puppeteers Odessa Johnson and Lily Mae Harrison are deft puppeteers, handling Jenny Oliver’s strikingly desisgned chooks and pheasant puppets with a humorous sense of character. Hide their tumbling hair under caps and you’d see even more of this.
The set is full of surprises; look out particularly for falling pheasants, trundling cars and a cunning way to show someone trapped down a hole.
And for those that know the book, the look of the show picks up on Quentin Blake’s fidgety birds’ nest spiky illustrations, especially that for the vicar’s wife.
Not a whiz bang holiday piece but a slowly developing story. It’s one for a young audience that might like the encouragement to thought that Roald Dahl generally provokes.
* That’s the programme’s spelling. The book says ‘Hazell’