Danny, Champion Of The World
at the Old Rep, Station Street * * *
Review by Andrew Cowen
There's something dependable about Roald Dahl. As English as roast beef, he was tuned into what makes kids tick.
Danny, Champion Of The World comes from a different place to his fantasies Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Rooted in the real world, it does, however, share a similar strong moral fibre.
As a piece of drama it's perfectly at home in the reassuringly old-fashioned Old Rep, something brought home as the cast mingled with audience before the curtain went up for the second half.
Birmingham Stage Company's adaptation is pretty-much spot-on. A cast of ten give an energetic account in a romp that barely pauses for breath.
In a nutshell, Danny lives with his dad in a caravan in a garage yard. Mr Hazell, the local squire, wants to buy the land and will stop at nothing to evict them.
Danny's dad lives to poach from the squire but is extremely popular in the village. When Hazell gets the council to serve an eviction notice on the pair, Danny hatches a plan which will allow them to stay.
There's no doubt where Dahl's sympathies lie and the outcome is predictable, but getting there is great fun.
There's a top drawer performance from Iain Ridley as the titular Danny. He brings an infectious energy and really drives the action along. Other cast members play several roles and play the instruments which form the soundtrack.
The set is simple but effective with a caravan the main focus of the action. The prop-makers were kept busy making the flock of pheasants which are central to the plot.
It's good, old-fashioned drama, cut from a similar cloth as Famous Five romps and the young audience lapped it up, booing at the baddy and cheering the hero.
Running time 2 hours. Until January 2.