The Dark Philosophers

Based on the Stories of Gwyn Thomas, adapted by Carl Grose and the Company
National Theatre of Wales
Traverse 1

This is the Edinburgh debut for the relatively new National Theatre of Wales. They have chosen to pair up with Told By An Idiot to present a homage to the Welsh teacher, writer and broadcaster, Gwyn Thomas.

Frequently during The Dark Philosophers, which combines biography with enactments of some short stories, one is reminded of the writer's namesake, Dylan, both in the language and characterisation.

Kneehigh's Carl Grose and Told By An Idiot, who supply the director, Paul Hunter, are specialists in physical theatre, which shows from the very start of a show Angela Davies's design for which consists largely of piled wardrobes.

These are the valleys in which Thomas, who narrates from behind a mask, grew up. This youngest of a family of 12 leads us through his own childhood, in which drink was liberally taken to ease the pain of life down the mines.

Soon though, we become engrossed in two stories, in both of which sex looms large.

First, we join young Ben, a lad so thin he's liable to disappear through the cracks in the pavements, as he visits an outlying farm where the owner's main pursuit is incest, though he does love his goats.

In the other tale, we hear about oversized Oscar, who owns a mountain and uses his wealth and power to claim the Welsh equivalent of droit de seigneur.

An ensemble company swap roles around and produce music and movement to enhance the story-telling.

There are many unforgettable moments, leading up to the appearance on screen of Thomas himself, in an episode of Parkinson from the 1970s judging by the hairstyles.

NTW have hit the ground running with this memorable debut and it would be great to see them in London soon.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher