Review: Wonderman @ Tramshed, Cardiff

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Wonderman | By Gagglebabble, National Theatre Wales & Wales Millennium Centre | 13-18th September | Tramshed, Cardiff

Fresh from their stay at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the multi-award-winning theatre company, Gagglebaggle has arrived at the Tramshed to give their unique take on the adult short stories of Roald Dahl in Wonderman.

From start to finish Wonderman is a show that delights and entrances its audience. The seating is arranged around several candle-lit tables, the band reminiscent of a New Orleans jazz group resplendent in the appropriate night-club attire of bow-ties and dinner jackets warms up from the back of the room.

The musicians move to the stage to warm up with several standards before directing our attention towards a handsome RAF pilot sat at the bar. He is the young Roald Dahl and he is to be our conduit into this colourful roller-coaster ride of the magnificent and the macabre which begins with Dahl’s counterpart drifting in and out of several of his most infamous stories set to music.

Among the more famous of his stories that make noted appearances during this performance are Dahl’s Beware of the Dog where a sick RAF pilot doesn’t believe that he is in Brighton; The Landlady where a poor unfortunate traveller gets more than he bargained for.

Elsewhere the comical and the terrifying meet in Man from the South where an American sailor must strike his lighter ten times without fail or else he loses his left little finger; Pig, where an impressionable vegetarian chef’s new-found curiosity in how pork is made puts him in right dead lumber.

The show’s musical and theatrical high-point comes towards the end with Lamb to the Slaughter where a wife’s heartbroken spirit leads her to murdering her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. It is a moment that is mixed with exactly the right amount of emotional pathos and lyrical beauty.

These moments are all wonderfully imbued with excerpts from Dahl’s time spent recovering in hospital from his infamous plane crash in Libya during the war. The show ends as the newly recovered Dahl glistening away page after page with his new-found talent for writing.

With a small but dedicated cast of obvious Dahl fanatics, Wonderman is a show that deserves to be remade in the West End or Broadway with a huge cast and a great music score to accompany what is already a marvellous story and script.

The ingredients are already there and what with the recent adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, Wonderman could prove to be the show with the best prospect for success amongst adult audiences.

Shows continue in Cardiff until the 18th September – more information here.

Cover image credit: National Theatre Wales

Related Articles & Info:

Remembering Roald Dahl: Part II – Tales of the Unexpected

Review: WNO – Macbeth @ WMC 

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