Nineteen years after his death, Roald Dahl remains as popular as ever with the bedtime crowd. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches – the list goes on, each of them bringing delight to generations of children (and, let’s be honest, the grown-ups reading to them).
Much of Dahl’s children’s fiction shares the same ingredients – fantastical figures, a downtrodden child and lots of very silly words, all of which appear in his 1982 book, The BFG. The tale follows Sophie, a poor orphan who joins forces with the BFG (or big friendly giant to give him his full title) to rid the world of mean giants such as the Fleshlumpeater and Childchewer.
Originally adapted in 1991 by David Wood, the man behind many a children’s theatrical treasure, the show makes innovative use of puppetry to tackle the issue of size. In Act One, when Sophie is the only human, she is played by a small puppet – allowing tall adults to play the giants. In Act Two, however, the BFG is surrounded by humans, so it’s his turn to become a vast, 14ft puppet.
Wood has been adapting children’s books for decades, including several of Dahl’s – what is it about the author’s writing that works so well? ‘He’s extremely good at baddies,’ says Wood. ‘The giants in this try to eat children – and you can’t get much nastier than that. He also starts with a real situation then moves into a fantasy world, as well as empowering the child by making her the protagonist – all of which children enjoy.’
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 7–Sat 11 Apr