As Theater Gnaffel come to London for the first time to present two of Roald Dahl's famous Revolting Rhymes, conductor Tim Redmond tell us more about this amazing musical adventure.
It's not real. It can't be real. It's one of those things that you just know as an adult. Any doubts you may have entertained as a very young child are long-since banished. You know perfectly well that it's a bundle of material, beautifully constructed, but entirely inanimate. And yet...
As I walked onto the concert platform last month, about to conduct a double-bill of Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, three faces looked up at me. Two belonged to members of the cast, sitting comfortably, as I knew they would be, on a well-worn sofa just in front of the cello section. But the third face, possessed of brilliant green eyes that looked directly into mine, belonged to a creature I'd never met until that day – a creature I never knew existed until that day.
Wearing a simple smock over thin, spindly legs and with a sharp, beaky nose poking out from beneath a thatch of messy, grey hair, the creature met my gaze with an inquisitive stare. I continued my short journey to the podium and was aware of those two small, green eyes watching me as I moved. It was an extraordinary revelation: to understand at first hand the captivating magic of Theatre Gnaffel and their amazing puppets.
Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes are splendidly anarchic and entertaining retellings of traditional nursery rhymes. Two of them, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, have been set to music by the British composer Paul Patterson and have achieved the rare distinction of having entered the orchestral repertoire the world over. Paul's scores bristle with invention and an absolute understanding of how to tell a story using the rich and varied palette of the symphony orchestra. I have had the pleasure of conducting both works many times and thought I knew them very well. But I had reckoned without the creative genius of Theatre Gnaffel.
This award-winning Dutch company specialises in theatre in which puppets appear on stage as equals with actors. The two seamlessly merge to the extent that one is completely believing of a six-foot wolf who comes face-to-face with a high-heeled Little Red Riding Hood. Gnaffel prove themselves the ideal company to bring to life Dahl's edgy and slightly dangerous characters.
Last month in Cambridge I listened as I conducted. I listened to the two sell-out audiences who came to our performances of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. I heard guffaws and chuckles. I heard gasps and giggles. I heard pin-drop silence and rapt concentration. I heard the sound of hundreds of people – from toddlers to grandparents – utterly captivated by world-class story telling of world-class stories.
We are delighted and honoured to be bringing this unique collaboration of music and puppet theatre to London as part of the Southbank Centre's Imagine Festival this half term. I hope you'll be able to join us to experience the unforgettable puppets of Theatre Gnaffel, the inspired brilliance of Paul Patterson's music and the sheer joy of Roald Dahl's unbeatable stories.
Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs are being performed at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 20th February 2016 (3pm). The performance is recommended for children aged 6 and up. Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for children. Find out more and book.