Theatre and Dance
Anthony Pedley as The BFG
Whizzpoppingly wonderful fun in Watford!
The Watford Palace, the BFG and the Roald Dahl Museum are joining forces for a fantabulous week – with a man who’s played the role over 1500 times!
There’ll be whizpopping fun for adults and children alike as Roald Dahl’s enduringly popular children’s book, The BFG, takes to the Watford Palace stage this month [April 2009].
The theatre will also be hosting a free Roald Dahl activity morning in conjunction with the Roald Dahl Museum which is based in the author’s home village of Great Missenden.
The BFG book has enjoyed total sales of the UK editions of around 37 million, with more than 1 million copies sold every year. This adaptation by David Wood, brings the well-loved story of a dream-blowing, big friendly giant (BFG) and orphan girl Sophie to life with live action.
Anthony with Becky John as Sophie (Ph: Robert Day)
The story, which is a classic tale of good triumphing over evil, centres on Sophie, who is snatched out of her bed in the dead of night by the BFG. She fears the worst because his grisly neighbours, the Bloodbottler and the Fleshlumpeater, like nothing more than swallowing human beans, especially nice little childeren. But the BFG is a dream-maker and not a man-eater and he’s about to take Sophie on a journey she never expected!
Playing the title role is a man who is certainly no stranger to it – or Dahl. Anthony Pedley has played the Giant in three different productions and recently notched up his 1500th performance. But not only that, he takes his one man show ‘A Taste of Dahl’ round to schools, libraries and festivals – giving youngsters everywhere an introduction to the well-loved author.
He told us how he manages to play the same role over and over again.
“Well, the audiences are different” he explained, “they’ve never seen it before, so you listen out for reactions.
“The children are different too so you’ve got to do it for them. You just think about the joy that you are actually giving people – hopefully anyway!”
And, we suggested, when you love character, it’s not a chore.
“It does help” he agreed, “but it’s very hard work mind you, especially as 18 years ago I was a lot younger!
“I’m growing into it, but I think he’s supposed to be about 300 old anyway so that’s fair enough!”
This latest production is directed by Phil Clark, and while it is the same David Wood adaptation, Anthony revealed how it is a little bit different.
“There is live music on stage” he explained.
“In the past we used to have a chap in the pit playing a clavinova and underscoring the piece, but this time round we actually have actor/musicians on stage playing instruments so the underscore is played by the cast themselves. Apart from myself and Sophie (Becky John) all the others are playing instruments….and it makes it really exciting. It’s incredible.
“It’s taken me a while to come round to that way of thinking I must admit” he added.
“I’m not that keen on the old muso thing because I’m not a muso myself but I think it’s helped me!”
He also revealed that Clark has made the start of the play much darker, and that Sophie now screams when she is snatched, which makes it far more realistic. And his character is also more terrified of the consequences of what he’s done. It’s this which makes the story more relevant to today’s youngsters who are brought up on a diet of TV realism.
However, Anthony also explained that while that’s the case, there are next to no spectacular effects and the children are still enthralled.
“It [the realism] does make them sit up and take note” he said, “but what’s interesting about the show is that the giant puppet is not animated, it’s me inside it moving it around and there’s nothing really in the way of special effects, it’s just the magic of theatre I think which seems to take over.
“It’s wonderful when you get all these children sitting there who are used to this diet of heaven knows what on the television and on the X-Box and Playstations and things and they’re riveted just by live theatre.”
He also find that youngsters are spellbound by Dahl’s stories as he takes his one man show around the country.
“They just sit there with their mouths open and they laugh and they respond and they forget about television and all that sort of stuff because they’ve got a real live performance” he revealed.
“It’s that empathy that you get with live theatre which they’re not used to, and it takes a lot of them by surprise.”
And of course, there’s also the actual stories that enthrall them and it’s not just because they are classic tales of the triumph of good over evil.
“There’s the naughtiness of course” laughed Anthony, “they love all the whizzpopping stuff. But it’s also fun and I think that for children to know that some adults can be fun and can be naughty as well, is quite good for them. I think it’s quite empowering for the child.”
So, while the classic stories remain essentially the same, each new theatrical production of a Dahl classic like the BFG will change slightly to reflect its changing audience, but has Anthony’s portrayal of the Giant changed over the years and over all those performances?
“Yes, I think it has” he said.
“I still hear David Wood’s notes in my head at times when I’m working on stage, but also I’m much more aware of my latest director Phil Clark who’s taken me into a different sort of area. He’s making me think about it a lot more, I must admit.
“It’s stopped me from getting lazy. I don’t think I’ve actually thought about anything totally differently, I’ve just thought more about what I’m doing.”
Anthony said that all the family will enjoy coming to see the BFG because it’s “whizzpoppingly wonderful and gloriumptiously gorgeous.
“Adults love it because it takes them out of themselves and it takes them back to their own silliness as children as well” he added.
“And it empowers children, it shows them what sort of power they can have over adults when they see Sophie manipulating the BFG getting him to do things. It’s fun and it’s a good story.”
To add to the fun, the Watford Palace will be holding a free Roald Dahl activity morning on Saturday 2 May from 9.30am to 10.30am.
A representative from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden will present interactive storytelling sessions from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts in three 15-20 minute sessions at 9.30am, 9.50am and 10.10am.
Isabelle Reynolds Marketing and PR Coordinator from the Roald Dahl museum said:
“Clem Silverman from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre will give you a taste of the fantabulous fun to be had at the Museum with some uproarious storytelling.
As friends and neighbours of Watford Palace Theatre, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is delighted to be associated with this swishwiffling production of The BFG. Come prepared to join in with Clem, as he’ll need lots of help with noises and actions!”
The BFG runs at the Watford Palace Theatre from Tuesday 28 April to Saturday 2 May 2009.
There is no need to book for a story telling session just turn up on the morning but people are reminded that this event is for BFG ticket holders only or people who intend to buy tickets for shows later that day.
last updated: 27/04/2009 at 11:12
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