Seesaw-Website-Banner.jpg
Kids/Reviews/Theatre

Pared down & Picasso-esque

18 December 2017

Review: The Twits – Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ◆
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 6 December ◆
Review by Varnya Bromilow ◆

Recreating a beloved children’s book can be, well, fraught.  Not only do you have to deal with the bald candour of kids, there’s also the fierce nostalgia of grown-up children to confront.  And so it is with Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s new incarnation of Roald Dahl’s The Twits.  This convoluted and very funny tale has been distilled into a one-hour show by actor and writer, Humphrey Bower, assisted by director Michael Barlow.  It is a big ask.

If you’re not familiar, The Twits tells the story of Mr and Mrs Twit, a revolting, twisted couple who enjoy a life punctuated by pranks.  United by their malice, this husband and wife seek to scare, disgust and horrify each other on a daily basis.  Spare Parts chooses to let the narrative do the heavy-lifting in this two-hander, utilising a spartan set and a surprisingly restrained use of puppets.  The Twits are represented by two gaudy, paper-mache creations (created by Leon Hendroff) their features chaotically adrift on their faces.  It’s the first of several unusual choices – the characters in the book are pointedly hideous, which one would think is fertile ground for a puppet-maker, but these representations are more Picasso-esque than ugly.  Part of the sneaky delight of The Twits is surely marvelling at the abhorrence of the protagonists (both inner and outer), but here we’re deprived of that guilty pleasure.  Is this a response to the mean-spirited text that equates ugliness with nastiness, or is it a puppet-maker’s desire to present something less literal?

The actors sporting these masks – Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Geordie Crawley – make fine fodder out of the pared-down script.  Crawley is particularly good, revelling in the stinky misanthropy of his character; his loose-limbed physicality a fitting vehicle for the flatulent contortions of Mr Twit.  In such a spare set, with minimal puppetry, the task of bringing the script to life falls entirely to these two actors.  They do an admirable job, but ultimately this adaptation seems hurried and oddly repetitive.  Much of Dahl’s fabulous gibberish is left out, likely to keep the show to an hour, but it means that the final effect is an abbreviated experience, largely devoid of the nonsensical flourishes that make the book such a riot.  As the young fans I went with later explained… “it just wasn’t as funny as the book.”  A big ask, to be sure.

The Twits plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, Jan 8-27.

Photo: J. Wyld

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Varnya Bromilow

Varnya Bromilow is a happy dilettante who has worked as a journalist, advocate, oral historian, teacher and train driver. She spent 15 years with the ABC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The West Australian and enjoys writing fiction. She loves guinea pigs and the thrill of a good slide.

Past Articles

  • What to SEE: Winter holidays kids’ gig guide 

    There’s no excuse for boredom in the July school holidays with a wealth of entertainment and activities around town for the young ones in your life. Check out the winter edition of our kids’ gig guide.

  • A lament for two outsiders

    WASO’s double bill of Elgar and Bruckner is the ideal escape on a rainy Perth night, writes Varnya Bromilow.

Read Next

  • Photo by Jarrad Seng
www.jarradseng.com Kids' Gig Guide. A man in yellow sunglasses and a white shirt smiles as he holds up a small dog made from folded cardboard. What to SEE: Winter holidays kids’ gig guide 
    Kids

    What to SEE: Winter holidays kids’ gig guide 

    22 June 2022

    There’s no excuse for boredom in the July school holidays with a wealth of entertainment and activities around town for the young ones in your life. Check out the winter edition of our kids’ gig guide.

    Reading time • 7 minutesMulti-arts
  • Jesse Chester-Browne and Amy Yarham in a scene from Freeze Frame Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel'. Two actors dressed in khaki and green scout/guides uniforms look at a gumball machine. The glass bowl of the machine is filled with bright glowing strands of light and it is topped with a miniature gingerbread house Classic fairytale gets a modern twist
    Kids

    Classic fairytale gets a modern twist

    9 May 2022

    Freeze Frame brings opera to a new generation with a light-hearted performance of an old favourite Hansel and Gretel, writes young writer Bethany Stopher

    Reading time • 5 minutesOpera
  • Two men in blue t-shirts and jeans. One is wearing big round glasses and the other has a tall cone hat which is blue with gold stars Potter wizardry casts  chaotic spell
    Kids

    Potter wizardry casts chaotic spell

    21 April 2022

    Potted Potter is a completely silly attempt to condense the Harry Potter series into a 70-minute show, and junior reviewer Bethany Stopher is totally on board the Hogwarts Express for the hilarious ride.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio