Dec 4 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Whizzpopping fun

Royal Lyceum Theatre: Fri 28 Nov 2014 – Sat 3 Jan 2015

The Lyceum is transformed into the magical world of The BFG where “all dreams is beginning”, through the imagination of Roald Dahl, script of David Wood and direction of Andrew Panton.

Full of adventure and wonder, this is a production which guarantees joy and delight – as long as you don’t mind plenty of whizzpopping and the odd bone crunching giant.

Big ears, big dreams. Lewis Howden as The BFG. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Big ears, big dreams. Lewis Howden as The BFG. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

On a cold winter’s night in England, young orphan Sophie is whisked away from her bed by an enormous 24 foot high giant. Not all is as scary as it seems though, when this giant turns out to be the BFG – a big friendly giant who catches and delivers dreams. Most importantly, he eats snozzcumbers instead of children. Transported to his world, Sophie becomes his best friend and leads him on a mission to save her world.

Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale, first performed in 1991, is framed within the story of another young girl called Sophie, who is celebrating her birthday with a group of friends. Let down by their magician, her family and friends act out Sophie’s favourite story: The BFG.

This framing allows for a small cast of eight and solves the quandary of scale – getting a 24 foot giant on stage isn’t always practical.

Yet, setting the tale in this way – instead of simply showing the real story – seems to dilute it somewhat. If it is hugely entertaining, it seems to have lost the darkness of the original text.

a sense of wonder

The production uses both set and puppetry to clever effect. Set in a bedroom-come-toybox, the multifunctional stage transforms into the BFG’s cave, Buckingham Palace and the magical world of dreams, creating a sense of wonder and awe as it is turned into a twinkling twilight.

Sophie's birthday - Emily Byrt, Martin Murphy, Neshla Caplan,Tom Mackley and Robyn Milne in The BFG.  Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Sophie’s birthday – Emily Byrt, Martin Murphy, Neshla Caplan,Tom Mackley and Robyn Milne. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Coached by Rick Conte the actors manage to humanise – and delightfully giantise – their puppet counterparts to bring their characters to life. Robyn Milne as Sophie is charming, through mirroring her puppet she both engages and amuses with a bashful wonderment.

Lewis Howden is charismatic as the BFG, both quirky and enthralling as the runt of the giant litter – and introducing Sophie and the Queen of England (Claire Knight) to the delights of whizzpopping. Ben Winger also delivers a notable humorous performance as brother Guy.

As the story progresses, Sophie and the BFG devise a plan to enlist the help of the Queen of England to thwart and ultimately capture the other giants, saving the world and its human beans. However, there is a sense that the production could have been revised to suit the Scottish context and bring the story a little closer to home.

Part of the magic of Dahl’s work is his fascination with the grotesque; a certain darkness that, while frightening, is also compelling and in turn makes the victories more delicious. There is little that is terrifying here, however. The giants are vibrant and colourful – and with the exception of one head-ripping scene, it is all rather tame and jovial. It seems as though something is missing, even if it is in keeping with its framing device.

The land of dreams. Lewis Howden and Robyn Milne in the Lyceum's 2014 production of The BFG. Photo Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The land of dreams. Lewis Howden and Robyn Milne. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Overall this is a golden fizzwhizzer of a production, however. It is engaging, entertaining and enjoyable with a lot to celebrate. There is clever use of set, puppetry and songs, which draws the audience in. This, coupled with a good use of visual aids, adds to the personalities and eccentricities of the characters.

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes (including interval)
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 30b Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX
Friday 28 November – Saturday 3 January 2015
Wed-Sat 7pm; Sat: 2.00pm.
Full details and tickets on the Lyceum website:

David Wood’s script is available as either French’s acting edition or in his second collection of plays.

Wood has also adapted The BFG into seven short plays for children to perform. Or you can just go back to the source and read the book. It’s rather good!


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  1. Janna says:

    Oh I loved his stories. The BFG was a favorite.