Theatre in Wales

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At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre Companny- Danny the Champion of the World , Sherman Theatre Cardiff , November 25, 2004
Danny’s world is the world of the countryside; once again Sean Crowley’s set perfectly catches the mood and paints, with the skilful use of occasional, effective projection, an enchanting picture. It’s a world of woodland glades and clearings in the forest, elegantly and subtly lit by Ceri James. Little Danny lives in one of these with his big warm lovely dad in a battered old caravan. They run the village garage. The ‘lord of the manor’ and the Police Sergeant drive their cleverly constructed cars onto the stage with a lot of puffing of smoke and grinding of gears.

Danny knows that his dad is the best dad in the world. Griff Jameson as Danny and Dafydd Emyr, giving a loveable bear of a performance as his dad, establish a very strong believable relationship.

Country sports are very much in the public eye at the moment, with the government banning fox hunting on cruelty grounds. Here the prey isn’t foxes, it’s pheasants. There are hundreds of them all over the stage. Director Phil Clark’s fascination with puppets again pays off well and beautifully. Pheasants and chickens peck the corn and cluck merrily all over the stage. The projected, flying pheasants are a remarkable sight.

Of course this idyll can’t last. Danny’s dad, a one-parent family, reveals to his growing son his long-standing secret, concerning his poaching activities. But Danny’s a caring kid. He doesn’t want the birds harmed in any way at all. He’s even more upset when he hears of, the land-owning villain of our story, Mr Hazel, a real nasty creep of a would-be aristocrat, creepily created by Nick Wayland Evans with his toadying gamekeeper insidiously performed by Gareth Wyn Griffiths and their game shooting exploits.

Hazel has a plan to turf Danny and his father out of their caravan. But with fussing vicar’s wife and the no nonsense doctor, given lively performances by Nia Davies and Llinos Mai, to fight their corner. And Danny able to make good use of an audience of enthusiastic school children all trained in the art of game beating, up on their feet, stamping, clapping and clucking as loud as they can. And a trick invented by Danny’s granddad involving raisins and sleeping tablets. Hazel is beaten and humiliated in front of his hoity toity friends, all ends happily and Danny, for his part in the plot is proclaimed ‘Champion of his somewhat small world.’ All to the accompaniment of Paula Gardiner’s splendid atmospheric music.

This world premier is the Sherman Theatre Company’s seventh production of a work by, Cardiff born Roald Dahl. I am not a Dahl fan myself. I feel his subversion of young minds is responsible for many of today’s teenage problems. Perhaps the subversion is less strong in this particular story but the pheasant don’t do too well out of it. It’s a reasonable cheery introduction to young first-time theatre goers but doesn’t achieve quite the high degree of professionalism of last year’s Borrowers. It needs to move along a bit more quickly. The actors need to draws their characters a bit more clearly and subtly to make the best connection with the young audience, kids are very sophisticated these days. ‘What a child-audience wants and deserves is a show that’s a bit more SPARKY.’

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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