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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