Originally published on A Younger Theatre
2016 marks the 100-year anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth. A writer with spirit, humanity and guts, his books have become a childhood staple for generations of youngsters looking to escape the seemingly mundane world into the fantastical. Anything is possible with Roald Dahl, a kid becomes a hero and the desire not to grow up is so strong that for the most part the adults are the villains. Even years after his death, people are reading these expertly crafted stories and forgetting the drudgeries of life for a brief while; a truly inspirational legacy.
As a master of interactive, physical theatre, Les Enfants Terribles have chosen to celebrate Roald with a dinner party, but one with a difference. This dinner party is hosted by two of Dahl’s most disgusting, revolting adults, The Twits. An unwitting set of audience participants are treated to an experience that tries its hardest to be an antithesis to typical British etiquette – belching, almost inedible food and horrific party entertainment is the name of the game, hosted by a parody of the Thenardiers from Les Miserables. Endless creative potential presents itself here, yet the result falls somewhat short of truly sickening.
The whole experience draws well on its literary roots – from bird pie to sticky glue drinks and writhing worms, the tastes and smells and sights are instantly evocative of those messy childlike memories. For an evening, a group of adults can regress to eating soil and dirt and digging through compost to find hidden treasures. At least, that’s how the canapes are served.
Gastonomic visionaries Bompas & Parr are behind the edible and imbibable elements of the evening. The ticket comes complete with cocktail, an overgrown garden where one can forage for delectable treats, a sit down meal hosted by the gruesome twosome and digestifs in the haphazard bar afterwards. The overall offering doesn’t hit the mark; in this instance the quality of the food and drink is simply not up to scratch. Given the nature of the occasion, there should be a slightly queasy feeling that sits in the pit of the stomach, but this needs be to solely due to the description and intent to produce an “anti-culinary” experience rather than the objective inadequacy of the meal.
Samuel Wyer and Megan Norris outdo themselves in the set, costume, hair and makeup design of the story’s main antagonists. These are elements that Les Enfants Terribles are renowned for – intricate, transformational worlds that an audience can walk through with such eye for detail it instantly transports the participant into a childlike state of shock, awe and glee. Wyer’s long-standing relationship with The Vaults has seen equally triumphant sets in Alice’s Adventures Underground and Goosebumps and it is evident that he knows how to mould the space to his overall creative vision. The costumes, combined with Norris’ smudged makeup and electrified hair, for Mr Twit (Christopher-Robert Barlow) and Mrs Twit (Lizzy Dive) are outrageous, outlandish and fitting for this production.
The pairing of Barlow and Dive works in this scenario. Whilst the acting on the whole is over the top and verging on pantomime, the main characters carry just enough subtlety and layering to prevent the show from tipping too far into the absurd. A fine line, given that the whole evening was one audience participation away from “Oh, no he didn’t” and a cameo by Christopher Biggins as Widow Twanky. The saving grace here is that this is dinner theatre, small vignettes interspersed with eating and general conversation. A full 90 minutes of these performances would be too overbearing.
An audience is able to wander into a parallel world for an evening and relive their youthful messiness and unimpeachable love for Roald Dahl. Dinner at the Twits can be praised for delivering this nostalgic feeling, but the overall product is not up to the typical standard of Les Enfant Terribles – the problem with setting such a high bar is the disappointment that comes when it isn’t met.
Dinner at the Twits is playing The Vaults until 30 October 2016. For more information and tickets,see twitsdinner.com