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EEarlier this year, a number of theater professionals shared, via Twitter, stories of being turned down because their “only” theater experience involved working with young people. So wrong! As this world premiere of Roald Dahl’s short story, along with other productions reviewed in these pages over the past few weeks, shows, theater for young people requires at least as much skill as so-called “adult” theater. . Here, it takes even more. Not only do director Ben Harrison and his talented company have to transport their audience to an Indian jungle, the casinos of London, the world of social media and more, but they have to – and do – present seemingly impossible feats of magic.

Social networks? The quirky story of debonair Henry Sugar (David Rankine)’s transformation from spoiled rich man to selfless philanthropist is, of course, computer-free. However, Rob Drummond’s adaptation expands Dahl’s Chinese box-style narrative to include a new character, teenage Mary (Eve Buglass), alone in her bedroom (in the Becky Minto-inspired design, it’s a ‘a real box that moves around the many-curtained stage as freely as the laptop screen it imitates). For Henry and Mary, “enough is never enough”: he is hungry for money, she solicits subscribers for her social network account which she has just created. Their lives are transformed by their separate encounters with a book/ebook in which India-based Dr. Cartwright (Rosalind Sydney) tells the story of Imhrat Khan (Johndeep More), the man “who could see without using his eyes”.

Through Mary, Drummond introduces a cautionary tale quality to the story that effectively highlights the message of the Roald Dahl Story Company (a co-producer with Perth Theater and Helen Milne Productions) about “the power of kindness”. This moral accent dulls Dahl’s wry narrative tone, but it creates a necessary dramatic impetus for the stage action (still enlivened by wittily managed direct interactions with the audience, who threatened, on press night, to eclipse the actors – a man leaping to defend his wife’s honor from Sugar/Rankin’s flirty ad lib raised a guffaw of laughter and a round of applause). As for the feats depicted in the story – of levitation, mind-reading, seeing through solid objects – the cast’s combined talents with Fergus Dunnet (illusions), Simon Wilkinson (lighting), Scott Twynholm (sound and music ) and Lewis den Hertog (projections) work magic. In children’s theatre, as in all theatre, seeing is believing.

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