4 million wasps have descended on the sleepy village of Itching Down – “that’s New Zealand, in wasp form”. The mayor declares an emergency (“the worst crisis since we ran out of mashed potatoes in 1970”) and holds a village hall meeting to discuss what’s to be done. When his rather violent solutions don’t go down too well, Bap the Baker’s out-there idea gets the go-ahead: trap the wasps in a jam sandwich. It will have to be a pretty big sarnie, though, and making it requires the flour and yeast from every home, every bit of butter and pot of fruit preserve to be found in the village, and the manpower of the entire community.
This is the first adaptation of John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway’s 1972 picturebook, and New Perspectives’s low-tech, interactive, funny production does it justice. Versatile performers Paul Critoph, Sarah Ratheram and Christopher Finn bring all of the villagers, and even a couple of their unwelcome guests, to life. Among them are an expert Professor who’s keen to create the first wasp orchestra, the irrepressible and practical Farmer Seed, Baker Bap who can’t help bursting into song, and two geezer wasps just looking for someone to sting. Jack McNamara’s inventive script provides comedy for the grown-ups in these characterisations, particularly Baker Bap’s status as a soon-to-be divorcee after his wife left him for a cheesemaker. Much of this goes over the young audience’s head, though their funny bones are catered for with a dough-making dance routine that involves slapping your bum.
The picturebook’s story is told in verse, and the stage version’s songs work to keep this sense of rhythm and cadence. There aren’t just one or two numbers – The Giant Jam Sandwich is an accomplished musical, the narrative kept moving by the tunes and whole conversations happening in harmony. New Perspective’s play about a plague of winged pests is sure to garner some buzz.
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