A sick, mischievous reinvention of Roald Dahl's subversive story.
In this new stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved ‘The Twits’, monkeys are tortured, dogs are shot, people are emotionally crushed and there’s an exceptionally unhappy ending for a certain red-nosed reindeer – you’d do well to heed the ‘for brave eight-year-olds and their families’ guidance.
Adaptor Enda Walsh gleefully accelerates Dahl’s blacker moments, and as a result, ‘The Twits’ teeters brilliantly on the edge of being too cruel. But, as Dahl knew, kids love a bit of naughtiness and where Walsh wrote the bleak ‘Disco Pigs’ and surreal ‘Ballyturk’, he also wrote the warm-hearted musical ‘Once’ – he knows how to make everything ultimately okay.
Walsh’s Twits are posh, dirty-haired tossers who whack each other round the face with saucepans and trick anyone and everyone they can. As Mr Twit, Jason Watkins’s short body is all jerky – think a fat Johnny Depp in ‘Fear and Loathing’ – his beard perhaps not as monumentally scabby as it could be, but still suitably disgusting.
Monica Dolan as his Mrs struts crabbily around the stage with her walking stick. Amid a varied soundtrack these two even have their own theme tune – a punk track that makes them headbang like two mad anarchists. They are completely insane and very, very nasty.
The main thread of the original – about the Twits’ horrible treatment of a family of monkeys (here they’re Welsh, and absolutely made by Steven Hoggett’s subtle movement direction) and the simians’ glorious escape – is the focus in this adaptation, and it has been fleshed out by adding three new characters, a trio of Yorkshire fairground folk.
Dahl's original story was very short, and the new narrative feels a bit contrived – the first half struggles with too much exposition and repetition. But the second half’s exceptionally fun series of set pieces is a complete raucous delight; at one point Mrs Twit does a crotchety Queen impression, and Mr Twit a shot-gun wielding Father Christmas. The ending gets notably political, as what Mr Twit calls ‘the plebs’ come together in a revolution to overthrow the poshos.
In Chloe Lamford’s superbly scrubby design, trash litters the front of the stage and dead birds are glued to branches. Director John Tiffany knows how to pull off a flashy trick and in the show’s later parts there are some supreme surprises.
It’s fair to say that this is not, strictly, Dahl’s book. It has been added to and subtracted from, but its elements are all there including, most importantly, its blackly mischievous heart.
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Awful! I am 13 and went to see this with my mum and her friend with a six year old son. After ten minutes I was so confused I was seconds away from walking out, hoping it would improve-although unfortunately it didn't. I found the plot completely unnecessary and nothing like the brilliant original by Roald Dahl I had grown to love as a child. Sadly I left in the interval after talking to the six year old, who despite talking about a play for children, hated it. He didn't have the faintest clue what was going on, and thought it was to loud and overbearing. This play was a complete waste of my time and money and I am thoroughly disappointed.