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Dinner at the Twits – An interview with producer Oliver Lansley

3 September 2016 | Stephanie Brandhuber

Olivier Award-winning theatre company Les Enfants Terribles have paired up with creative gastronomy geniuses Bompas & Parr to bring Roald Dahl’s The Twits to life in an unforgettable immersive dining experience. Adapting this Dahl classic specifically for adults, Les Enfants Terribles invite attendees to join Mr and Mrs Twit in their windowless house and ghastly garden as they renew their wedding vows. Guests will feast on deliciously grotesque dishes and enjoy fantastic entertainment from the worst hosts to ever exist. We sit down with Oliver Lansley, the producer and adaptor of Dinner at the Twits to talk about the inspiration behind this unique event, and what’s in store for the Twits’ wedding guests.

London Calling: Why did you choose a Roald Dahl book to work on?
 
Oliver Lansley: For a start, just working on a Roald Dahl book is kind of a dream come true for me. Roald is basically the reason why I fell in love with stories as a kid. I used to devour his books, and the tone that he has, that mixture between dark and light and magical and melancholy, is just so perfect; it’s been such a huge influence on all of my work as a writer. So to work on a Roald Dahl is a real privilege.
 
LC: And why The Twits? Why didn’t you choose something more savoury, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance?
 
OL: “Dinner at the Twits” basically came about because the Dahl estate came to see our previous show “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, and they approached us saying, it’s the centenary this year, should we do something together? And we talked about different ideas and then The Twits came up. We wanted to do something that was kind of an adult version of the story, and this is the first adaptation of Dahl’s work that is being made exclusively for adults. The Twits is one of the only Dahl books that doesn’t feature a child as the main character. The Twits are the most disgusting people in the world, so going and having dinner at their house would be absolutely hideous and appalling, and we thought that would be a fun challenge.
 
LC: How did the collaboration with Bompas & Parr come about?
 
OL: I’ve wanted to work with Bompas & Parr for ages because they’re literally like real life Willy Wonkas! So we approached them, and thankfully they were as excited as we were about the project. We’ve never done a dining experience before but we usually tend to do stuff that challenges ourselves. And we thought, if we’re going to do a dining experience, the food has got to be amazing. The challenge of making food that is part disgusting, part incredible seemed like quite a fun and exciting challenge.
 
LC: As you say, there will be a fine line between keeping a disgusting aesthetic and keeping it appetizing and enjoyable. How are you going to approach this balance?
 
OL: Well, people have got to pay money for a three-course meal so the food is going to be delicious, I can promise you that! At the same time, there’s going to be a lot of fun surprises. Basically Mr. and Mrs Twit are renewing their wedding vows so you’re being invited to the reception as a guest. For the first half hour, you’re in the Twits’ garden and there are various canapés to eat and that’s the place where we can really play with taboos. So if you want to try worm spaghetti, you’ve got the option there. And then when you get to the main course, which is in their conservatory, the food will be delicious, but it will still very much be from the world of Dahl.
 
LC: Can you tell us more about the treats attendees can expect?
 
OL: We’ve got cocktails that have got tiny little mini helium-filled balloons on the glasses, and the beer that we’re serving is pretty special. We got permission to go to the Roald Dahl museum and take a swab of the yeast from his actual chair, and that yeast has been cultivated for the beer that we’re serving. So it’s stuff like that which is totally insane but hits that balance between being disgusting but also quite delicious.
 
LC: And what are you personally most excited about for the production?
 
OL: Well, I’m very excited about the food! I’m also really excited about the way that we’ll be involving the audience in the show. For us the challenge was creating an experience where from start to finish you go in and the attention to detail is just there every step of the way and everything is tied into each other, so that’s the thing I’m most excited about.
 
LC: What are you hoping people get from the experience?
 
OL: I hope they walk away with the same feeling that I feel when I read a Roald Dahl book. But rather than create a show for children we want to create a show that makes grown-ups feel like children. We want people to go in and watch the show to rekindle that excitement that they would have found as kids reading these books. 
 
Dinner at the Twits will run from 4th September – 30th October at The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN. Tickets start from £76.50, and can be booked online.
 
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