Andrew Panton's BFG lands with a whizzpop and a whizzbang
With many strings to his bow including international renown as a vocal coach and director, Andrew Panton’s behind-the-curtain career has recently found a natural outlet as director of large-scale seasonal shows on the Lyceum stage which deftly mix a sense of class with lots of fun. Last year’s A Christmas Carol was a deserved hit, and now this take on Roald Dahl’s famous story has done the job again.
There’s nothing Christmassy about the tale except the singalong encore, but a sense of magic and wonder pervades everything. Robyn Milne is Sophie, the young orphan girl snatched away from her bedroom by Lewis Howden’s Big Friendly Giant, taken away to live in Giant Country with him forever in case she reveals the secret of the giants to her fellow ‘human beans’.
Typically, for the Lyceum, the set design is excellent, with Becky Minto having created a large revolving house on a podium and a playful experiment in scale between each act: in the first, the lovably harrumphing Howden appears on stage and Sophie is a small puppet; in the second, the BFG is a huge animated figure appearing alongside Milne.
It looks and feels great, and the tone is controlled confidently, from the pathos of Sophie’s upbringing to the mild menace of the nasty giants and Claire Knight’s perfectly exaggerated, corgi-wielding Queen of England. Humour is plentiful and of the high and low variety – the signature ‘Mamma Mia’ theme which accompanies the Queen of Sweden draws a knowing laugh from all the adults, while a windy dance of the whizzpoppers (take a guess, those who haven’t read the book) elicits happy guffaws from the kids.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 3 Jan.