Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales is a selection of stories, told to a group of Haywards Heath commuters by a stranger who joins them on their journey. Skilfully adapted by Jeremy Dyson, of The League of Gentlemen fame, they mix suspense with the macabre and, as one would expect, all of them have a twist at the end.
The ensemble cast play a variety of parts as the stories change. Selina Griffiths excels in this diversity, and Trevor White, who plays The Stranger who knows all the denouements except one, is deliciously creepy.
What Dahl knew, and what this team preserves in adaptation, is that “imagination is a ferocious beast”, so it’s best to let the audience do a lot of the work themselves. The bare aesthetic of the design by Naomi Wilkinson is a highly effective element in director Polly Findlay’s atmospheric production. An expert knowledge of how suspense works creates great theatrical moments – sometimes coming from high drama, such as a bet with high stakes, at other times centred around a small domestic detail, such as drinking a cup of tea.
There is plenty of humour in the production but it might not be dark enough for some. Many of the laughs come from period details – that surely wasn’t Dahl’s intention, and it can dissipate tension. But these giggles about accents and class don’t detract from the enjoyment of the evening as a whole. If only commuting was always this entertaining.
Until 26 February 2011
Photo by Alastair Muir
Written 25 January 2011 for The London Magazine