Underbelly Potterrow, Edinburgh
Based on the short stories of Roald Dahl – and incorporating a true incident from his eventful life, Gagglebabble’s collaboration with the National Theatre of Wales is a sprightly mix of drama and music with a deliciously dark heart. Though musicians are onstage throughout the show, it’s somehow not so much a musical as a comic drama with songs. These days, Dahl is best known for his children’s books, but anyone of a certain age will be well aware of his parallel career as the author of comically disturbing stories with a ‘twist in the tale.’
In 1940, young airman Roald Dahl is rushed to hospital after crashing his plane in the Egyptian desert. He has serious facial injuries and is suffering from temporary blindness. Swathed in bandages and pumped full of drugs, he begins to hallucinate – and the hallucinations take the form of several of his most successful and grotesque short stories – including Man From The South, for my money one of the best stories ever written.
This is a brilliant ensemble piece – the script and lyrics by Daf James are witty and entertaining, the music by Lucy Rivers is delightful and the seven-strong cast perform faultlessly in their multiple roles. The one hour and five minutes zips by in a trice and if there’s a single disappointment here, it’s simply that it’s over so soon.
One delightful image – sheets of paper blowing around the stage in the rush of wind from an electric fan, stays with me as I leave the theatre. Wonderman is aptly named. This is a fabulous production.