Sophia is Backstage! at the open air Danny Champion of the World show…

Blog by Sophia Moseley



It was when the elderly and otherwise docile French bulldog scampered away from its owner, through the audience and up to the stage in an effort to chase the pheasants, that made me think this is what open air theatre is all about.

But they were no ordinary pheasants and the Illyria Theatre’s production of Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World was no ordinary production.

It’s been aeons since I enjoyed an open air performance; I think it was As You Like It in London’s Hyde Park but even so I can remember how much I enjoyed the experience of alfresco theatre and you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop than the famous Cobb and Monmouth beach. We were even lucky enough to enjoy a rain free afternoon which is probably the only disadvantage of open air events in the UK.

However, the advantages are many including having enough room to peddle a Rolls Royce, a police car and a bicycle around the stage, these being just a few of the extraordinary props the Illyria brought along.

For it was the scenery that transported the audience to a small village in Roald Dahl’s imagination where we saw into Danny’s gypsy caravan home, the chicken run and back yard and the great forest where his dad William went poaching that belonged to Mr Hazell,

“Do you know what’s meant by poaching?”

“Poaching eggs you mean?”

“No, poaching’s stealing and poaching’s an art”

Then there was the garage and forecourt as well as the school room where the teacher soon had us singing All Things Bright and Beautiful!

The puppetry was also brilliant as our bulldog audience member will agree with chickens and pheasants scratching and pecking around and even flying around the audience.

With picnic blankets and cushions, Pimms from the Marine Bar and plenty of ice cream during the interval, it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I’m just glad the seagulls that were wheeling overhead didn’t let their curiosity get the better of them as they eyed their pheasant cousins curiously down below!