Roald Dahl, adapted for the stage by David Wood
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in association with Richard Jordan Productions
Empire Theatre, Sunderland, and touring
Kids love Roald Dahl because he's very naughty and there are a lot of disgusting things in his stories. And they don't come much naughtier than The Twits, with loud belches and even louder and more frequent farts, so tonight's audience at the Sunderland Empire delighted in joining in with the Mugglewumps, the Roly-Poly Bird and the other birds to defeat these deliciously horrible central characters.
This production has music (enjoyable, from the actors), which was a bit reminiscent of a cross between the Tiger Lilies and the Baghdaddies; some simple but impressive aerial work on a rope dangling from the flies; some choreographed movement (not dance: more on that later); some basic juggling; a beautifully realised set; bright costumes; really disgusting baddies and nice animals as the goodies; audience participation - everything, in fact, to appeal to kids.
It seems almost ungracious to be critical, for the kids did enjoy the show, but children's theatre is still theatre and children do deserve to have plays with the same high production standards as any show for adults. Let's forget the point at which we cycled through three or more lighting states before reaching the right one (technical gremlins can affect even the best productions - remember the early problems at the Olivier - and this is a tour, a fact which increases the possibility of gremlins a hundredfold), but if you're going to give your cast dance moves to do, then you must make sure they can do them - properly. There were moments in the performance when I was reminded of dancers "sketching" their moves as a kind of warm-up before going on stage. The kids probably wouldn't notice, but so what?
It's a colourful production, with strong characters which appeal to kids. What a pity, then, that little things were not quite right.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan