Skip to main content

Review of The Twits at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have been a fan of the macabre world of Roald Dahl for as long as I can remember reading, progressing through his world of enormous crocodiles, onto my most favourites, Danny the Champion of the World and Charlie and his two epic adventures with Willy Wonka. I even then became a grown-up reader of Dahl, where I found myself absorbed into his Tales of the Unexpected. He is without doubt a genius writer, but could those worlds translate onto the stage successfully? Matilda's success says so, as does the huge success of the Chocolate Factory production. At the helm of this production of The Twits (from the Curve Leicester) is the dynamic and so far for myself, utterly brilliant work of director Max Webster.

His pedigree of bringing challenging worlds to the stage was dealt with, with total ease in 2015 when the world of Dr Seuess' The Lorax brought colour, joy and musical extravagance to the stage of The Old Vic, and The Twits offers in places much of the same. However the big problem with The Twits is the thinness of the material. While our two lead characters Mr and Mrs Twit are grotesquely and compellingly created by both Dahl's work and the performers Robert Pickavance and Jo Mousley, there is simply not enough story in Dahl's book to create a production from. Leaving it at a running time of just over ninety minutes, it still requires a great deal of fluff to be added to fill the time.

That fluff though is probably the best part of this production, all mostly in the second act, where this show pretty much becomes full pantomime. The filler of audience participation works wonderfully and that audience, clearly enjoying every minute are more than willing to join in. This includes perhaps the most bizarre moment of audience interaction that you may ever see, and I would be loath to spoil it here. Suffice to say, I feel sure you will never have seen anything like it before.

Jo Mousley (Mrs Twit) and Robert Pickavance (Mr Twit).
While the material is thing, the production remains pretty solid. The leads are both full of the character of The Twits, portraying their grossness with surprising clarity on stage, full of the dangerous edge Dahl knew so well to tread without going too far. These paired with the five ensemble of Luke Johnson, Liz Jadav, Alex Chang, Charlotte Workman, and Jack Horner, who provide both the chorus, the animal characters and some impressive acrobatic skills, complete a very well performed show.

Max Webster's dynamic touch remains from The Lorax, while clearly on a budget compared to that and the show misses any of the stunningly catchy tunes that featured there. It may seem unfair to compare the two, however despite being from different authors, there are many similarities. Both have an underlying environmental edge, both are of course full of bizarre and exotic animals, and the world they inhabit also feels very similar. Sadly The Twits doesn't have the depth of story to work as a complete show.
Ensemble
Production wise, it is a relatively simple affair with Georgia Lowe's set providing all that is required. The design however does fall victim though to this having been clearly created for a larger stage than the Royal has to offer, so the Muggle-Wump's cage falls victim to a huge blind spot for many in the audience.

There were some great little pieces of incidental music from Dougal Irvine that enhanced the characters with their own themes, and I also loved some of clever use of lighting from Joshua Pharo. Who knew that fluorescent tubes could be used so successfully!

So definitely an entertaining evening for its target audience, as the younger members were certainly well into the show, especially in the second half when they finally got to fully join in. As for a show to cross the age gap though, it is clearly a little flimsy and while it keeps you amused at times, if you haven't got an under ten to take, you may at times feel seriously out of place.

«««


Performance reviewed: Thursday 16th February, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The Twits runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 18th February, 2017
.

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Photos: Pamela Raith

Popular posts from this blog

Review of DNA by University of Northampton BA Actors at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, London

The final year performances of BA Actors this year upped sticks and headed away from their Northampton Royal territory and gathered to show their skills in London.

The first of the three shows being performed was Dennis Kelly's DNA, a play which I saw performed on the Royal stage itself four years ago. I enjoyed it for its dark mysterious nature and was looking forward to seeing a different interpretation of the show. It tells the tale of a group of youngsters who do something really bad, and proceed to attempt to cover it up, resulting in the real bad, well, getting more bad. It's dark yes, but also, very funny at times.

It opens with a looming movement piece of theatre, which I always love and this was no different for me, brooding and sinister. It's quite a long opening, which perhaps, in the end, becomes too long, but it's a fabulous piece of theatre for me. It set's the scene very well for Kelly's dark piece to unfold and in the hands of these, about to gr…

Review of UoN Fringe: Lawmen by Flux Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

Way back in April 2014, No Way Out was the first production that I saw from local amateur group Masque Theatre, it was a version of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos (No Exit), and four years later, the University of Northampton group Flux Theatre provide another version, presented in a far more claustrophobic style and modernised considerably.

Seated in a circle, barely more than five metres in diameter, the three actors. Amber Jade Harrison, James Grayson and Ross Bayliss perform an adaptation of Huis Clos, titled Lawmen. This becomes perhaps one of the closest proximity productions that I have ever seen, and likely to, so much so, that often the actors are even seated in adjacent seats. to the audience.

We, the audience, are not there, of course, it may be close contact, but these three characters are in their own world. These three have been thrown into this Sartre inspired world of lies, and deception. Who are the truthful ones, who is the controlling menace? We do not know of co…

Flash Festival 2018: An Error In The Melody by Carousel Theatre Company at Hazelrigg House, Northampton

At the centre of Carousel Theatre's An Error in the Melody is an intriguing character, performed by the groups solo performer, Amelia Renard. She plays, with some skill, Leonie Owens, a composer of immense skill herself, well, in her head in any case.

With shades of Glorious! The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, which I have also seen this year, Owens just wants to perform and absorb the love of an audience, despite the fact that her skills mostly just lie within her head. Owens perhaps isn't anywhere near as nice a character as Foster Jenkins though, and when the tide turns against her, she really is quite nasty, and definitely very cold.

The dislike of the character though isn't the biggest problem with An Error in the Melody, it's more that it is a very insubstantial piece. Two very long scenes in this play are just so lightweight, the opening where she tidies her shelves, mostly with her back to the audience, and then later another scene similar in style. It…