Bringing the BFG to Life

Books Places

The Human Bean Eating GiantsThe Human Bean Eating Giants

Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, Meatdripper, and Childchewer played by Sam Burns, Connor Delaplane, Madeleine Delaplane, and Elizabeth Gibbs respectively.

Sometimes as a dad, I can struggle to connect with my kids. If I want to take them out for a special treat, it can be hard to know what to do, other than a movie or ice cream. Recently, I added a new weapon to my father-daughter arsenal — children’s theater.

Last weekend, courtesy of the Northwest Children’s Theater in Portland, Oregon, my family and I had the joy of watching the Big Friendly Giant come to life in front of our very own eyes. The experience was simply scrumdiddlyumptious!

I was entranced from the moment the BFG plucked Sophie from her window until the very end when he walked into the sunset. I will even confess to a couple of drops of facial moisturizer as the BFG and Sophie scampered around stage catching dreams. It was such a beautiful realization of Dahl’s imagination. Resident artist John Ellingson, who played the role of the BFG, was fantastic. Working the whole show on stilts, he embodied both the grammatical silliness and straightforward, simple caring of Dahl’s character.

Dahl’s book belongs in the same conversation as other early 1980s pop culture challenges to the established order in Britain. It questions the role of government and British propriety in a similar fashion to a bright pink Mohawk with a studded leather jacket, or television shows like “Yes, Minister.

For me, the scandalous politics which Dahl weaves throughout his book are all the clearer on stage. To see the British state — as represented by the queen — hug one of its orphans and bring her home to live in Buckingham Palace made Dahl’s beautiful political vision tangible in a way which reading could not. It is a worthy and beautiful vision to believe that the state should get its hands dirty while using its power to take care of those who cannot protect themselves from the child-eating giants of the world. While not ignoring the dangers, Dahl is, in the end, an optimist.

The BFG and Sophie.The BFG and Sophie.

John Ellingson as the BFG, and Annika Cutler as Sophie.

The great production of the BFG isn’t an outlier for the Northwest Children’s Theater, either. My kids have been attending Northwest Children’s Theater productions for years with their preschool, but it wasn’t until last Spring that I was finally able to go with one of them. On a slushy afternoon last March, my youngest and I saw the Busytown musical. I figured that I would be there for my daughter. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.

Another advantage for dads who might be thinking about taking their kids to the theater: tickets to many quality children’s theater productions can be quite inexpensive, sometimes comparable to movie tickets. Children’s theater opportunities are available in most major cities. So Dad, if you get a chance, take your kids to see a show. You might just experience something magical. If you are in Portland, don’t miss the BFG at Northwest Children’s Theater. It runs through the end of the month.

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