Review: Gargantua, Buxton arts centre

Gargantua’s designer Tayler Skinner wanted the audience to leave thinking “What the hell was that?” – and she certainly achieved her goal.

When the giant baby she had created was finally revealed on stage in all its grotesque glory there was a spontaneous round of applause and the wacky puppet character was the only subject people wanted to talk about as they left Buxton’s Pavilion Arts Centre.

The play, by Carl Grose, was being staged by the Buxton Opera House Young Company as their entry into the National Theatre Connections Festival.

After a two-year gestation Mrs. Mungus gives birth to a gigantic baby she names Hugh. The mutant baby attracts the unwanted attention of corrupt officials intending to clone the child and build an army of deadly giants, but they hadn’t banked on protests from his loving parents and the public.

IMG_4366Director Craig Sanders wanted the play to have a Marvel comic book-come-film concept with the “biggest and boldest set Buxton has ever seen” and that is where the obviously talented Tayler came in.

She is a student at Nottingham Trent University and the design for the play is her final year project. Craig’s brief clearly didn’t faze her and she created colourful comic strip style portals to frame the stage and make it look as if the story was being told within a giant book.

There was a pop-art theme running through the rest of the costumes and props which included the Dummy Suckers a rock band of Avenue Q-style puppets.

The musical soundtrack, which had a vital role in this version of the play, was put together by musical director James Atherton and created a mood and pace to suit the director’s style.

IMG_4084The whole company did well to overcome the technical challenges and they all performed with commendable enthusiasm and it was great to have the chance to see potential stars of the future on stage.

The play has a bewildering range of characters and at times the pace was so fast the dialogue was lost on the audience. To be honest the end of the play took us somewhat by surprise it was only the bowing of the cast which confirmed the action was over.

There are two casts performing the show which can be seen at 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow and also at 2.30pm tomorrow (Saturday) for tickets go to

The cast performing last night were The Poo Monsters and they were: Imogen Dowding, George Reavey, Dan Garland Eve Skitt, Seb Whiting, Ed Ivings, Jude Sellors, Sam James, Caitlin Kawalek, Theo Spencer, Elise Fernihough, Leo Parker, Lucas Parker, Anna Langson, Frederique McCarthy-Wilkinson, Anna Walker, Beth Furness, Cameron Hollis, Tom Taberner, Daisy Rodgers and Alfie Adey-Maguire. The Ensemble were Daisy Mellon, Tamzin Jackson, Molly Glinn, Amelia Fitzgerald, Elli Bradshaw, Lucy Gilmore, Rosie Lower, Matilda Holden, Charlotte Granger, Louise Rawley, Isabel Wedgewood, Sophie Benjamin, Samatha Edgar, Natalie Hodgson, Minnie Hibbert and Julia Battersby.

The assistant director was Adrienne Posta and the stage manager was Emma Furness.