Review: The Twits, Unicorn Theatre

Roald Dahl’s twisted children’s book, The Twits has never been more vibrant. If you’ve got kids and fancy introducing them to a British Classic, I urge you to watch this show with them. I can guarantee any adults sitting in will be equally entertained by this exquisite reading. You will be swept away with Ned Bennett’s construction of this fabulously gritty tale.

Bennett’s production is released in three comfortable twenty minute bitesize episodes for easy viewing, adapted excellently for the medium of video. It is unequivocally daring in its theatricality. Georgia Lowe’s design is playful at each and every turn. Plastic pigeons stick to the lighting rig during the infamous ‘Bird Pie’ sequence and colourful feathers sprinkle from the ceiling when the Roly-Poly bird appears. The actors violently smash bread dough when framing the Twit’s nasty words, childishly portraying their character’s violent intentions.

There are certain aspects of the design which are slightly frightening, perhaps the reason why this show is better suited to older children. There are rugs of human-like hair lying at the base of the two armchairs which are rather sensory in themselves. Need I mention the wool spaghetti which spills out of Mr Twit’s every orifice during a certain chapter? Dahl is undoubtedly dark and Lowe honours this in her choices. It is deviant and gross when Dahl calls for it, but always childish and fun. Each and every prop is purposefully used for the exact moment they spring into the story with a bowl of glass eyeballs, squishy frogs and buckets of nasty yellow gloop.

The casting for this production could not have been better. Martina Laird and Zubin Varla are in no way crooked like their characters (Laird has a magnificent smile which frames various scenes as she gives a delightful red-lipstick grin). These two perform ugliness with breathtaking skill. They are mesmerising as they morph through characters with immaculate movement quality. They even have a tap dance sequence! Laird and Varla sparkle. Their performances are exactly what make this production work. Their vocal skill is remarkable, particularly with so many characters to differentiate and perfect. Laird’s voice for the Roly-Poly Bird is an absolute treat. 

The visuals of this production seem to not only serve, but honour Quentin Blake’s original illustrations. The cinematography is dark and at times uncomfortable. From a theatrical perspective, this was splendidly fitting for such a wicked tale. Perhaps, however, this is not the most suitable bedtime story for little ones. You’ll grow to understand why this is for a 6+ audience. Yet each camera angle is used to fulfil every single moment of storytelling. When the Twits are turned upside down, the camera flips exactly as Dahl himself would have intended.

What incredible generosity of the Unicorn Theatre to offer us this production for free. In such a trying time for the theatre industry, the brilliance of this production inspires one to truly want to support companies who make such superb work. This is nothing less than narrative perfection; what fun! We have been gifted at-home theatre, and it is marvellous.

The Twitsis playing on youtube until the 30th November. For more information and tickets, see the Unicorn Theatre website.