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BWW Review: DINNER AT THE TWITS, The Vaults, 14 September 2016


The genius of Roald Dahl created some wonderfully villainous characters, and two of the most vile must be the disgustingly horrible Mr and Mrs Twit. Bringing their story to life, with details such as the house turned upside down, worm spaghetti and bird pie, is a challenge few could tackle.

Dinner at the Twits is a huge collaboration between the Olivier Award-nominated team, Les Enfants Terribles and ebp, working in collaboration with culinary wizards Bompas & Parr and creative agency Creature of London. The result is an immersive dining experience which challenges the senses of the audience at every stage.

We visit The Twits a few years after the Dahl book. The Twits are renewing their wedding vows and have invited you all to a party. Upon entering The Twits' garden you have to forage for your own canapés. The exploration of the terrible landscape is fantastic fun, but the only criticism is that the space is a bit too cramped and it's hard to see everything.

The dining hall is an opportunity to sit down and be served the most weird and wonderful dinner you may have ever had, as the characters perform and interact around you.

The Twits was written as a children's book, but no children are allowed at this show and it's easy to see why. The production team has created an adaptation of the story that keeps the dark and beastly details and adds to them with very adult themes. There are macabre reminders of the evil nature of the pair everywhere, such as a small teddy in the bottom of a rusty cage in the garden.

If you are familiar with the book, you will recognise that every awful and quirky detail has been considered and interpreted with the utmost creativity and enthusiasm. Huge barrels of Hug Tight glue are everywhere, glass eyes appear in very odd places and even the famous Roly Poly bird puts in an appearance.

As you would expect from a company who made a model of Harrod's department store out of jelly, Bompas & Parr's food is innovative and endlessly surprising. A 'Mouldy Delight' canapé is presented on nails rather than cocktail sticks, gin and tonic is made with real nettles and glows in the dark.

It's a fine balance to present food that appears too frightening to eat that is actually edible. Gruesome details include bird feet with the claws still attached on top of pies, worm spaghetti actually wriggles in its bowl and parsley liquor bubbles and boils on the dinner table as though in a cauldron. It's both revolting and strangely appealing.

A few things fall a little flat on flavour, such as tasteless Hug Tight Glue Soup and the Terrible Trifle is tooth-shatteringly sweet, but the inventiveness behind all concepts cannot be criticised.

Immersive theatre is an off-putting concept to some. With shows such as this, audience participation is inevitable, but it is all good-natured and amusing, rather than embarrassing for anyone. There is a jeopardy when interacting with a live audience, but the whole cast handle the audience brilliantly, never deviating from character.

Standout performances come from Chris Barlow as Mr Twit and Lizzie Dive as Mrs Twit. Both are loud, brash and fantastically awful. As pantomime villains they are entirely convincing. As a member of the audience you are very much part of the story, but despite constant interaction, the pair are not overbearing or forceful in getting people to participate.

So much thought has gone into every detail of the production: Samuel Wyer's set and costume design is outrageously over the top and Megan Norris' hair and make-up is as impressive close up as it looks from far away. The setting of The Vaults is perfect; a claustrophobic, windowless venue that reflects the darkness at the heart of the production.

This is neither a gourmet dinner nor a deeply complex story, but altogether it is incredible demonstration of wit, creativity and innovation. Be brave and make sure you get to sample this fantastic experience.

Dinner at the Twits is at The Vaults until 30 October

Photo Credit: Rah Petherbridge Photography

Read our interview with producer Emma Brunjes

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