Suitably surreal musical take on some of Roald Dahl's darkest stories
This article is from 2016.
While his children's stories are frequently populated by saccharine do-gooding orphans, Roald Dahl's tales for adults are the stuff of darkened-alley, hectic acid nightmares. Gagglebabble and National Theatre Wales have cherry-picked the most macabre and villainous of his short stories and injected them with a dose of frantic gig-cabaret musicality to create Wonderman.
The young fighter pilot Dahl lies badly injured and feverish in a hospital bed in Alexandria following a near fatal crash. Each of his hallucinations develops into a different short story, trotting convincingly freely around the globe from Jamaica to New York via a B&B in Brighton.
Structurally this is an interesting framework but by the third onset of delirium the machinations of each approaching episode – Dahl thrashing about trying to figure out where he is and dodge perennially looming meat cleavers – are so neatly nailed down that it begins to lose sight of the tricky 'unexpected'. The final scene reigns it back in, Dahl's final piecing together of his accident is refreshing in its lucidity while still maintaining the show's boundary-inquisitive tone.
The live on-stage band provide sublime bluesy accompaniment, which is unsettling and soothing in equal measure. Overall, this peculiar world is done justice by this original and bizarre production, which lands just on the right side of hysteria.
Underbelly Potterrow, until 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 6.05pm, £11--£12 (£10--£11).