Holes at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

24 January to 1 February 2020

Reviewed by Zoey Caldwell

Last night I had the pleasure of taking my two sons to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton to watch the stage production of Holes.

My first experience of Holes was the 2003 movie, which I watched curled up with two poorly children, I had no idea that the movie was adapted from a novel written in 1998 by Louis Sachar but we thoroughly enjoyed it, so when I had the opportunity to watch the stage adaptation, I was really excited.

Holes follows the unlucky boy Stanley Yelnats (James Backway) who thanks to a pair of extremely expensive basketball sneakers falling from the sky and into his hands finds himself sentenced to a stint at Camp Green Lake. Way out in the unforgiving desert, where no rain has fallen for one hundred and ten years, Stanley joins the group of delinquent boys who are made to dig, day after day, dig a five-foot deep, five-foot wide hole, under the watchful eye of Mr Sir (John Elkington) a cranky sheriff type cowboy has just given up smoking and is never in the best mood! However, he is just small fry compared to the Warden (Rhona Croker) who is a force to be reckoned with.

HOLES. James Backway
Photo by Manuel Harlan

Stanley finds himself thrown in amongst a group of boys that do not make the transition to camp life the easiest, X-Ray (Harold Addo) a cool individual, with wit and banter a plenty. He has been at the camp a long time and is almost top dog of the gang! Zero (Leona Allen) a quiet boy that doesn’t fit in, the children and counsellor deem stupid, a boy that likes to dig holes. Armpit (Henry Mettle), delightful name and not for a delightful reason, a good wash  and a can of deodorant wouldn’t fix and finally Magnet (Joelle Brabban) a mouthy, cheeky young man that is ready for mischief at any given time.

Stanley has been convinced by his father that everything bad that happens to him or his family are all down to his pig stealing grandfather and the cast very cleverly play the Camp Green Lake and grandfather story alongside each other. These scenes were so professionally done, it was quite easy to follow the two stories, the cast made it smooth, effortless and quite brilliant. The script is funny and so are the characters, there were several moments the audience gave a big laugh. Every actor/actress played their roles brilliantly and this small theatre group play at least two characters each and yet, there were no costume mishaps, forgetting which character they were in any given moment. The performance timings were fantastic, sound effects timed perfectly with movements made.

There are a few puppets in the show, a slithering rattlesnake, tarantula and the infamous yellow spotted lizards, one bite and you are dead, they are simple but elegant and the puppet mastery is faultless, they are very cleverly integrated into the show.

For those that have not read the book or watched the movie, I have no intention to give the entire storyline away, expect a wild west female outlaw, a strong smell of onions and an all-round feel good stage show.

I do not want to sell the cast short, by saying it is a simple show but they work hard to make it seem that way, the choreography is fantastic including a very interesting shower scene! A flawlessly choreographed scene set along to Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me.

HOLES. The Holes Company
Photo by Manuel Harlan

A tale of treasure seeking, good vs bad, of forming  a true friendship and a brand-new product to end smelly sneakers!

Holes is being performed at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 1st February, book to go it is a brilliant family show, my youngest is eight and he really enjoyed it, I would probably not take children if they were much younger than that, it is a family show but not suitable for really young ones, I don’t think they’d engage with it.

I would say a huge well done to all involved in this production, every member of the cast, and of course all of the backstage crew that aid the cast in producing such a first-rate show! Ticket prices range from £11-£30.

Brilliant performances, fabulous theatre, and as always, the staff were polite and helpful. Thank you to all for a fabulous evening

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

Holes is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 24 January to 1 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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