Thursday 15 December 2016

The Twits

Curve, Leicester
14th December 2016

Following the success of The Witches last year, Curve have once again turned to the twisted imaginings of Roald Dahl, hoping to cast an intoxicating spell of ghastly fun for families over the Christmas period. This time Curve have teamed up with the Rose Theatre Kingston, and The Lorax director, Max Webster, for a production of David Wood’s adaptation of The Twits which fizzes with gleeful grizzliness and outlandish high-jinx.

Mr and Mrs Twit (Robert Pickavance and Jo Mousley) live in (un)holy matrimony in their squalid caravan and love nothing better than making life a misery for everyone around them - but most especially for each other. Commendations must go to Georgia Lowe’s intelligent design; I felt a small thrill seeing the exterior walls of the caravan collapse to reveal the skid-marked dinginess of the Twits’ home, a bold opening which accentuates the disgustingness of the setting – equalled only by the disgustingness of Mr Twit’s grimy Y-fronts (audible ‘eeewwwws’ resound throughout the auditorium!).

A grotesque picture of their deplorable lives unfolds; we wince at Mrs Twit’s culinary concoctions for her husband, a delicacy of wriggling worms and refreshing beverages garnished with glass eyes; and Mr Twit’s elaborate plan to rid himself of his wife, involving enough helium balloons to fly to the moon. This last scene is rather charmingly realised with the use of a tiny puppet that floats up and over the audience, just one example of Webster’s injection of inventive physicality into an already extraordinary world.

So, when Mr Twit’s scheme to open a circus of performing Muggle-Wumps, a rare species of monkeys kidnapped from the rainforest, goes awry, it’s only a matter of time before the gruesome twosome get their comeuppance.

Webster’s production is a short, warped, bouncing ball of energy; what it lacks in refinement it more than makes up for in good-natured mayhem. For a family show, the real coup is the sheer volume of audience interaction and participation – from pre-show chats with the actors, to sing-along/dance-along routines – as a way of getting kids engaged with theatre it’s pretty fool-proof, and the youngsters in the audience were lapping it up, relishing their complicit involvement in trouncing the horrid couple. Water pistol fights were greeted with squeals of joy (warning – if sat in the stalls you WILL get wet!), and the novelty of an entire audience waving their shoes around in the air completes the carnival fun.

Topped off with some impressive acrobatics and live funk music, The Twits is a kinetic and fervent jumble of a show which is guaranteed to keep youngsters rapt in awe. For an alternative to the traditional Christmas panto, while still retaining a ‘Boo! Hiss!’ atmosphere of audience/actor collaboration, this is an unsanitary family treat to savour in all its grottiness!

The Twits plays at Curve, Leicester until 21st January 2017.
 Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

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