Seldom does an arts company stick so closely to its visions and purpose, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is the anomaly.
Image: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Roald Dahl's The Twits.
Winning praise from adults and children alike, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre's productions connect the generations and open audiences eyes to different world views, heightening the imagination and shine a light on some of the intricacies of being a human.
Roald Dahl apparently had an aberration of men's facial hair, more specifically beards, and The Twits is Dahl's snappy comeback to the styles proliferation, denoting clearly his feelings regarding his fuzzy friends.
The Twits are a hideously unhygienic, menacing, downright wicked and unsightly couple who play a series of pranks on each other and the unsuspecting wildlife around them – advancing the plot line.
Dahl’s delicious language lends itself beautifully to being orally presented, and the two performers, Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Geordie Crawlie slide seamlessly back and forth between joint narration duties and their respective characters.
Their actions bought the characters to life, and an early fart joke got the audience onside almost immediately.
Cleverly inserted pop culture references kept adults entertained, as unlike most Spare Parts shows, this is aimed directly at younger audiences.
If ‘pantomimey’ can be used as a technical term, then it is the perfect description. The constant horseplay enables lots of interaction with 'He’s behind you' and the like.
The only concern I have for families seeing The Twits is the ensuing tomfoolery and blatant shenanigans that the children are likely to employ against family members during this festive, holiday season – and chances are high that at least one nipper is going to question their ailing grandparents or other elderly relatives about how they contracted 'the dreaded shrinks.'
Set Designer and Puppet maker Leon Hendroff’s ‘String Symphony’ bedazzled Western Australians early this year, and he has become a staple at Spare Parts. The Twits set is clever and multi-functional, the lone tree providing a myriad of props and instruments from behind, within and even doubling as the shrubs foliage. The masks and puppets too were multi-purpose, allowing the actors dexterous movements to be unhindered.
The danger of creating a show specifically for younger children, is often oversimplification, yet the early childhood age group have a prolific and diverse imagination. I can’t help but feel the design could have been taken several steps further to fully capture the ugliness and hilarity of both Mr and Mrs Twit, Muggle Wump the desperately caged yet still cheeky performing monkey, the convivial Roly-Poly bird and the smaller birds destined for bird pie.
The balloon scene employs more techniques and design elements, and the result is particularly effective, one of the only moments within The Twits where adults can get fully sucked in to the story and the characters plight. Spare Parts are usually masters at developing layers within the narrative, enabling adults and children to become fully immersed into the various adventures.
Younger tykes will LOVE this, adults will enjoy it.
2018 looks set to be an enormous year for Spare Parts, starting with a presentation in conjunction with Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) and a two-week season alongside the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and continuing with collaborations in association with Western Australian Museum (WAM), West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO), West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and Fremantle Festival.
3 ½ out of 5
Roald Dahl’s The Twits
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
World Premier Season
January 8 – 27, 2018
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level