The Dark Philosophers (4 stars)

This article is from 2011.

The Dark Philosophers

Photography | Toby Farrow

Dark Welsh classic given a postmodern twist

Death is no impairment to being on stage (as being a goat is no impairment to being a stagehand) in this darkly comic delight from National Theatre Wales and Told by an Idiot. Weaving together two novellas from Welsh English-language writer Gwyn Thomas and episodes from his biography, this is a sprawling Frankenstein production encompassing music, physical comedy, puppetry and Michael Parkinson.

Thomas narrates from beyond the grave, excellently animated by Glyn Pritchard in a half mask, in the irreverent spirit Thomas was known for. ‘Simeon’ and ‘Oscar’ are the two stories recreated, both about monstrous men, the latter conjured with some effective puppetry.

The labyrinthine set is put to full use evoking all aspects of the Welsh Valleys that were Thomas’ home and inspiration and there’s so much going on that the constant onslaught begins to fatigue at times.
An interlude for a recreation of Thomas’ 1970s interview with Parky brings us closer to the present and Thomas current deceased state, marrying the source material with NTW’s playful additions to mine a seam of captivating, absurdly comic grotesque, which shines a light on a Welsh diamond.

Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 28 Aug, times vary, £17–£19 (£12–£13).

National Theatre Wales and Told by an Idiot - The Dark Philosophers

The Dark Philosophers

  • 4 stars

★★★★ 'an impressive piece' (Guardian), ★★★★ (Times). The great 1940s Valleys comic storyteller Gwyn Thomas becomes a darkly hilarious 21st-century comedian. Taking no prisoners and respecting no laws, other than the right to survive, he is one of Wales' most distinctive voices of the last century. National Theatre Wales…

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1. David Cox28 Aug 2011, 11:41am Report

The Dark Philosophers - Traverse Theatre - 1pm - 9.83/10

With a variety of DARKCHATTERs arriving shortly who specialise in comedy shows I thought I would grab as much drama now as possible. So, where better to start than a double-bill at The Traverse.

The irony being of course is that we had travelled from Cardiff to see the National Theatre of Wales’s latest offering. I was vaguely aware of the writer Gwyn Thomas mainly through an Anthony Hopkins BBC film “ Selected Exits” way back in 1993, but generally he is forgotten and over-looked.

This play beautifully captures both the joy and despair of living in rural Wales in the 1930/40s. Director Paul Hunter, however, ensures this is not a period piece by cleverly relating to the current audience with a reference to appearing at the Fringe.

The play seamlessly intersperses Thomas’s life and death with two of his stories. This is one of those rare theatrical entertainments creating both huge laughs and then tears. The sequence re-creating his appearance on the Michael Parkinson show is one of this week’s great events while the despair of some of his characters is truly heart-breaking.

The acting throughout is nothing less than outstanding with strong performances from Daniel Hawksford, Ryan Hacker and in particular David Charles who moved instantaneously into a variety of different characters. Credit must also go to Glyn Pritchard conveying the layers of the writer despite wearing a Greek chorus mask throughout.

A masterpiece.

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