Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales

Adapted by Jeremy Dyson
Directed by Polly Findlay
Liverpool Playhouse
30th March - 23rd April 2011

Reviewed by Sarah Ryan
Photograph by Alaistair Muir

Take your seats and enter a world where nothing is what it seems, where three stiff upper-lipped English commuters’ humdrum lives are shaken and somewhat stirred by the arrival of a rather loud, nattily dressed, intrusive stranger with some tales to tell.

The scene is set, from the moment you sit down, as the auditorium is dominated by a large ticking clock against a dark backdrop with swirling smoke. Set in a 1950s train carriage, a young boy, confidently played by Matthew Kennedy, introduces us to the three commuters and the daily commute with a twist begins! Welcome to Roald Dahl’s world of the sinister side of the ordinary, populated by creepy landladies, cloyingly played by Selina Griffiths, who collect and stuff young men, adulterous wives who get their comeuppance and a deadly bet, a Cadillac for a little finger.

Adapted from sixteen of Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, Jeremy Dyson, of League of Gentlemen fame, has selected five for this production. Building on last year’s hugely successful ’Ghost Stories’, Dyson’s flair for the macabre is well represented in his collaboration with Director Polly Findlay who adds her own take on Dahl’s unnerving and gruesome world.

The five vignettes are linked together by the motif of the train station or carriage, the three commuters and the omnipresent whirring hands of the ticking clock. I thought the device worked well with each story connected by a revolving stage which provided a smooth passage between each grotesque finale. Clipped English vowels added to the thundering, whistling sounds of old trains arriving and departing from an unnamed platform all contributed to the pervading sense of cosy unreality.

Add to that a strong cast of six, who moved between different roles creating a picture gallery of the repressed, the lonely and the brutally self reliant who populate this strange Dahlian universe.

With the final scene we are presented with a largely autobiographical tale, ’Galloping Foxley’, featuring Perkins in an English public school scene which highlights the bullying that took place. Effectively staged and gripping in it’s comic brutality it brings the evening to a close, only to remind us that none of us are immune to the bizarre twists of the imagination!

Sit back and enjoy the twists and clues knowingly presented in this dark yet quietly playful adaptation of Dahl’s twisted tales.

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