It may be 400 years since the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes and 200 since the birth of Charlotte Bronte but ask any nine-year-old and they will tell you Roald Dahl is the best by far.

“He is full of little impish thoughts and wickedry inside him, so that plays well for a child audience,” said Roman Stefanski, who is directing James and the Giant Peach at Polka Theatre.

“The story follows the child and the adventure the child and, whether outlandishly or sensibly, things sort themselves out.

“With Quentin Blake’s illustrations, they are wonderfully whacky. There is such life in them in that scribbly way and it really brings up fantastic pictures in your head. I think that is part of the success.

A century after the great author’s death, Polka is staging an adaptation of the great author’s 1961 novel about an orphaned boy who travels to New York in a soft fruit with a band of bugs.

Roman was first approached about bringing it to the stage 30 years ago.

“Originally I said ‘this is a West End show’, it’s spectacular. That scared me.”

But he was persuaded a decade ago and enjoyed it so much he was keen to return to the show, which was adapted by writer David Wood, whose production The Go-Between is currently in the West End.

Roman said: “He is so skilled at staging shows. He used to be a producer.

“The way he has written the show is a good story. It is very child-friendy, it is very user-friendly and it is quite faithful to the book.”

Clearly one of the biggest challenges of the production was bringing the ever-expanding peach to life. Roman uses not one but five peaches in the play.

He said: “My biggest idea was of course when the peach lands in the sea, having grown and grown.

“How the hell do we make it bigger? That is when I came up with my own cheeky idea – for heaven’s sake, let’s blow up the forestage. And that’s what we do. We’re using inflatables and things like that.”

Polka’s James and the Giant Peach plays until August 14 and has been delighting early audiences.

Roman said: “They have loved it, especially when the peach rolled through the audience. There are screams and shouts and joy.”

Tickets cost £15 for adults and children or £10 concessions and the show is recommended for ages five to 11.

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