Preview: The Twits, artsdepot, London

Don't monkey around with the Roly-Poly Bird business
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The Independent Culture

The Roald Dahl estate allows only one production based on the writer's stories to be staged in the capital at any one time. It's now the turn of Pilot Theatre's Marcus Romer, who brings his production of Dahl's The Twits to north London's artsdepot, having directed it at Octagon Theatre, Bolton, last year.

The story (for ages four and up) is of the revolting Mr and Mrs Twit, who keep the Muggle-Wump Monkeys cooped up in a cage, and occupy themselves playing horrid tricks on each other - Mrs Twit cooks up worms in her husband's spaghetti; Mr Twit tries to convince his spouse she's shrinking. Help is at hand for the Muggle-Wumps when the Roly-Poly Bird arrives on the scene.

Romer - who was a dentist before he took to the boards - brings a Tim Burton-esque element of strangeness to this production, turning the Twits into "trailer park trash".

"They live in a static caravan in a junkyard, where they keep the monkeys in a metal cage," Romer says. "The story covers issues such as allowing others to be individuals, as Mr Twit expects everybody to conform to his rules."

Romer has been artistic director of Pilot Theatre, a touring company based at York Theatre Royal, for the past 12 years. He has written four plays and appeared occasionally in ITV's Emmerdale since 1993. Pilot Theatre's award-winning 1988 production of Lord of the Flies, directed by Romer, made the company an overnight success.

What exactly was it that made Pilot's production of Lord of the Flies so different? "We began touring the mainstream theatre circuit, creating productions for teenagers and developing younger audiences in partnership with venues," Romer says.

"This might be somebody's first-ever experience of live theatre. We are in that very privileged position to try to make it the most magically engaging piece of work they will ever see. We want to plant the seeds of inspiration and creativity."

28 November to 7 January (020-8369 5454; www.artsdepot.co.uk)

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