The day Cardiff started marking the Roald Dahl celebrations – 100 years since his birth – the heavens opened with massive thunder and lightning storm, dousing the city in an unseasonable torrential downpour.
Maybe the teller of dark tales or at least twisted ones was having a cheeky laugh at the city of his birth but where he actually spent precious little time. Irony would definitely be a Dahl quality.
No matter that, the city is always on the look-out for an excuse for a festival and so we have all manner of jollity going on and this weekend is either the place to be or, if you want to do anything apart from Dahl, the pace to flee.
The city centre is apparently on shutdown for an outdoor theatrical event entitled The City of the Unexpected this weekend and although little is being given away (unexpected you see) traffic chaos is one certainty – yet again.
This offering is certainly for the grown-ups as Gagglebabble collaborate with National Theatre Wales and Wales Millennium Centre.
Adam Redmore and Joe Shire
Hannah McPake and Lucy Rivers
At the city’s music venue Tramshed, Wonderman opened after a run at the Edinburgh Fringe and, with Gagglebabble performing, a good time was guaranteed with music lots of quirky acting, costumes and dark humour as they told a number of Dahl stories within an umbrella tale of the writer’s wartime experiences.
The key actor as Dahl is Adam Redmore and a jolly, likeable, chap he is. He is able to slide in and out of the differing characters who are all victims in these stories while slipping in and out of the hospitalised Dahl umbrella story. There is no pretense of making Dahl particularly Welsh (Wellington one said he was as much an Irishman having been born in Ireland as he would have been a horse if born in a stable). Rather he is a stiff upper lip posh English fighter pilot. With the Gagglebabble gang of musicians and singers he inhabits the stage and Hayley Grindle’s flexible sets designs admirably.
Basing the story on a comment Dahl once made to daughter Sophie that a bump to his head in a wartime crash started his creative juices flowing, it is all fast moving stuff as director Amy Leach leads the cast (and us) through a journey of reality and dreams and nightmares with an ending that is, well, a bit twee but nice and on the first performance, falling on the actual centenary, a birthday cake appeared and we all sang Happy Birthday.
It would ruin the show to tell too much about those stories as realised for stage by Daf James, Hannah McPake and Lucy Rivers but we have plenty of gruesome scenes, tales with a twist (yes indeed, Tales of the Unexpected) and an introduction that is a 1940s boogie woogie show.
Lucy Rivers and Hannah McPake are joined by Joe Shire for these tales within an overall tale with a live band also on the stage whose members are occasionally called upon for the odd scene cameo. They are Pete Komor, James Clark and Mark O’Connor. Now I could make out every word but a couple of the people I was with struggled to catch all of the dialogue and particularly some of the sung lyrics.
Lucy Rivers, Adam Redmore and Hannah McPake
Lucy Rivers, Adam Redmore and Joe Shire
Images: Kirtsen McTernan
Adapted from Roald Dahl’s Stories for adults
Script and lyrics by Daf James
Music by Lucy Rivers
Conceived by Daf James,Hannah McPake and Lucy Rivers
Director Amy Leach
Designer Hayley Grindle
Lighting Designer Josh Carr
Sound Designer Dan Lawrence
Tramshed, Cardiff until September 18