The Terrible Tale of the Twiddly Widdles – New Diorama, London

Writers: Clem Garritty and Oliver Jones
Directors: Clem Garritty and Oliver Jones
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

The New Diorama has opened its advent calendar with a show that probably fits better with Halloween, but in appropriate Christmas fashion The Terrible Tale of Twiddly Widdles is actually rather like a theatrical trifle, fluffy and delicious on the top with some unknown soggy fruit at the bottom. Combining a huge scoop of The League of Gentlemen, some chunks of Roald Dahl and a surprising tang of John Woo, this two-man show tells three stories that pay homage to its macabre comedy forebears.

The three tales, performed entirely in rhyming couplets by Clem Garritty and Oliver Jones with bandaged faces, have nothing to do with one another but are mixed together episodically as the story bounces between cliff-hanger moments. The weakest is about two old ladies involve with a school panto but disagree with its new-fangled artistic direction and particularly the casting of a boy to play Peter Pan, so they plot to destroy him. This part of the story has its funny moments but the characterisation is less convincing than elsewhere and its darkness is not as subtle.

The second tale which gives this show its name is a surreal story about three children who escape from School and run into the dark woods where they soon become sport for the Pig King and his minions. Here the rhyming is at its most pronounced, and while sometimes the delivery is too fast to catch all the words properly, the creation of the wood and its frightening inhabitants is vivid. There are some excellent sound effects alongside the more gruesome moments which help to this story build to its sinister conclusion.

Finally, and by far the best, is a story of two friends in their 50s who become inseparable after meeting at the pub, but one drunken night too many ends in a bizarre decision that is as ghastly as it is hilarious. Jones and Garritty are at their best here creating two characters that traverse the edge of believability – one full of northern bullish masculinity, the other weaker and hero-worshipping his pal -so that the audience becomes engaged in the story of their antics before a fantastically weird twist. The rhyming, though present, is far less noticeable in this more fleshed out tale and with its strong League of Gentlemen overtones these characters could have been the focus of the whole show.

It combines a lot of ideas and creates some vibrant images, but occasionally the writers work themselves into a corner having to force the pace to fit the rhythm or fudge the words to make the rhyme work. The Terrible Tale of the Twiddly Widdlies is, in essence, an extended sketch show which doesn’t entirely marry its three tales together well enough but provides plenty of bizarre humour to entertain the audience during its one hour run time. And what better way to celebrate the advent of Christmas than with some child gobbling, murderous grannies, and some ill-advised home surgery.

Runs until5 December 2015 | Image:Helena Miscioscia


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