Review: Twisted Tales

After the recent success of Ghost Stories, currently thrilling West End audiences at the Duke of York’s, Jeremy Dyson and the Lyric Hammersmith have joined forces again to create the latest addition to a chain of theatrical horrors.  Twisted Tales is a collection of Roald Dahl’s short stories, written for adults, with unexpected endings.  An anthology of these tales were originally adapted for a television series, Tales of the Unexpected, between 1979 and 1988.

Opening with a young boy in a train carriage reading a book of stories, three businessmen enter the carriage, later joined by another slightly less favourable gentleman, who begins a story.  The stories take form, one about a necrophiliac landlady, another a bet involving a Cadillac and a finger, and three more, all tied together at the end with a link from the last tale into the encapsulating narrative; a very loose adaptation of ‘Galloping Foxley’.

The structure is almost identical to that of Ghost Stories, to which Dyson was co-writer.  The stories however seem stifled by the narrative and lack the depth and detail that Dahl applied so expertly to his work.  The difficulty is that the short stories have twists of varying absurdity but ultimately non possess a real shock.  Its at this point that it occurs to me that these tales may well be kept best in books where the reader’s own imagination may illuminate the tales to slowly disturb and play on their mind.  The theatrical staging is unable to capture the weirdness and cruelty of the prose, therefore losing the charm of the unique Dahlian style.

There are some very strong performances however, not least from Selina Griffiths, whose ability as a character actress is celebrated here.  Nick Fletcher also gave some very clever and often quite funny, character performances.  The directing however often felt a little clumsy and the writing too, with characters in the narrative given pointless reasons to be pulled of stage, simply so they may take up their positions as a character in the story that ensues.  And although only 80 minutes in length, some of the stories felt dragged out, for theatrical effect no doubt, but became a little dull, a downfall when so much of the original detail had been removed.

Sadly, the production didn’t capture Dahl’s excellence as a storyteller, nor quite so his dark humour.  Though there were some enjoyable moments of absurdity, it lacked thrill and felt in many ways like an attempt at hitching another ride on their previous success.

Runs until 26th February 2011 at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Written on behalf of The Public Reviews www.thepublicreviews.com.

Copyright © The Public Reviews & theatreJunki 2011.

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