GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES TAKES HIS INNER CHILD FOR A HAPPY SPIN…
As Mrs.Twit wisely points out – children are horrible. Too many “family shows” forget that. Instead of sweetness, children want darkness. They’ll allow a happy ending but they expect plenty of misery, menace and thrills in the run-up. Just like, would you believe it, adults. Roald Dahl built a career on this intelligent approach.
This mischievous, glorious production is more an extrapolation than an adaptation by Enda Walsh. The characters are there, their sadistic motivation intact, but in between the familiar beginning and contractually obliged happily-ever-after is sandwiched a totally unexpected, but warmly welcomed invented middle.
Years ago Mr and Mrs Twit tricked a group of fairground folk out of of their livelihood. A dog was shot, a boy’s hope’s ruined and a tattooed fortune teller duped. Bored with their caged monkeys and looking for wicked entertainment, the Twits entice them back with the promise of reconciliation and the return of their fairground. Instead they are kept fin limbo for months; teased with performing monkeys, they are practically abused by a filthy Barbara Woodhouse (Mrs Twit,) and a rustic Santa Claus with a whiff of Yewtree (Mr Twit).
Monica Dolan and Jason Watkins are near perfection as the giddily evil pair: camp, slightly perverted and beautifully drawn, a real masterclass of comedic acting which instead of splashing in the surface froth, delves right to the depths of meaty, funny parts.
The accompanying cast are all excellent. But Aimée-Ffion Edwards as the daughter monkey – who is the highlight of the monkey family’s mini plays – took what might have been functional, and made it hearty and funny.
John Tiffany has directed not just a brilliant show for children – I heard genuine laughs and panicked drama-tears from the junior crowd – but also a solid play for adults. Every laugh from the script is successfully carried to us, with heaps besides. Skits from the monkey family, Mr and Mrs.Twit penchant for fancy dress and songs are all brought together with the kind of music and lighting cues you expect from a mammoth musical. This is a shipshape show.
The set, beautifully designed by Chloe Lamford, is a large blinking hamster wheel, a round face out a which a long tongue of a stage folds out. It is wooden, scuffed and dirty, but covered in bright circus lights. And it wasn’t a lazy set. It moved, twirled, rose and opened; all the genius whizzes to hold any child’s imagination.
This was darker than the book I loved as a child, and all the more satisfying for it. Children laughed with the adults, leading each other at different points. If it wasn’t jokes about ridiculous accents (Leeds, Wales), it was the murder of Rudolph. A certain hit, with West End transfer written in spit, shit and glue all over it. Hurrah!
Until 31st May
Box Office: 020 7565 5000