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'For the cast, it can be a dog's life'

THE BFG. Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until December 20.

Box office: 0141 429 0022

Like many Scottish theatres, this year the Citizens has opted for children's theatre rather than pantomime, but not quite. The immensely popular BFG (Big Friendly Giant) of Roald Dahl, in the stage version by David Wood, has been mildly compromised by pantomime topicalities. In particular, the unfriendly giants are very much stick and carrot, at one time dancing like the Spice Girls, at another committing the unforgivable by eating the Teletubbies.

Otherwise, the story of how Sophie and her enthusiastically whizz-poppin' Big Friend save the children from being eaten in their beds is much as Dahl had it, with the benefit of Kenny Miller's colourful and intriguing set, a zealous cast, and a live dog.

The British fondness for animals begins at pantomimes; all actors know that the best costume is the one with fur on the outside.

For the mere humans, Douglas Irvine managed the transition from mild father to BFG with ease, and Jay Manley, as always, exploited his opportunities to the full. Barbara Rafferty relished queening it at home in Buckingham Palace, but these Christmas audiences are always a challenge.

The trouble is that, in the mass, children hate dialogue and love action. The essential joy of Roald Dahl is in his childlike dialogue, but as a theatre-language it is two-edged. The apparent childishness springs from a linguist's delight in words, their sounds and their meanings. At its best, it sounds like a four-year-old Steven Berkoff, excitedly improvising at the creche concert.

It catches children of a particular age, and that could be a problem. Good children's theatre is aimed at specific age groups, but Christmas theatres cannot afford to be particular about the age range of coach parties, or families. Truly, for the cast, it can be a dog's life.

Brian Hayward

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