Writer, Roald Dahl, is many different things to many different people. He is a writer to some. He is a creative genius to others. But to British surrealist comedian, David Walliams, he is someone he admires, and wants know more about, because he too is a children author don't you know.
Now to help David answer his questions, this one hour special presents him with archival footage, stock photography, plus interviews from Roald's wife, Felicity, as well as Joanna Lumley, Giles Abbott, Michael Rosen, Anthony Horowitz, and other people who I have forgotten the names of.
What now follows is a basic break down of this show:
- Who is Roald Dahl? Apart from the silly name, originally this rather tall gentleman wrote short stories for adults. But when he had children, he then started to write for kids instead.
was he born?
Cardiff, Wales, in 1916, from Norwegian ancestry.
- What was his early life like? Mixed to say the least. His Father and elder sister died when he was only three. He hated school. He loved his stoic Mother. And he cherished his somewhat anarchistic upbringing in an alternative household.
- Where did he write his books? In a small hut at the bottom of his garden located in Buckinghamshire.
- Name some of the books he wrote. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Witches. The Twits. Matilda. Plus the Fantastic Mister Fox to name but a few.
- Who illustrated Roald's work? A very nice and creative man named Giles Abbott, who looks like my Dad's mate Keith the thief.
- Did Roald just write children's stories? No. As well as the adult stories he wrote when he was younger, he also wrote the screenplay for 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', plus the James Bond flick 'You Only Live Twice'.
- What was his war time experience's like? He was a fighter pilot in World War II, who had an accident when he ran out of petrol in his aircraft. This resulted in him having to have two steel hips plus six operations on his spine.
- Did he have a family of his own? He had two wives and five children. One of his daughters, Olivier, died when she contracted measles.
- What made Roald the genius that he was? He made people believe the unbelievable, whilst at the same time having that uncanny ability to mix the darkly cruel with his bizarrely funny.
- Where did he gauge his inspiration from? His life. His Norwegian heritage. His family. Plus a need within himself of make bad-people pay, and bring hope to the good. Maybe.
Roald Dahl died on
November, 1990. He is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St
Paul's Church, Great Missenden.
Now before I give you my 411 on 'David Walliams - The Genius of Dahl', please allow me to give you my own experience with this cunningly creative children's author.
Well, like many of you I'm sure, I was first introduced to Mr Dahl when I watched him on the television series called the 'Tales of the Unexpected'. I really loved that program you know. As soon as the merry-go-round theme music kicked in, I used to jump up and down on my parents sofa, waiting with anticipation for that spooky looking gentleman with the bad hair-style, to scare me shitless with his husky introduction. Granted, I always wanted Roald to just 'get on with it', so I could watch whatever it was he was going on to narrate. However, over time, I started to listen to what he was actually talking about, and I appreciated his learned manner on a sort of alternate level.
I suppose like Roald himself, I always enjoyed 'the other' quite a lot. Especially how this altered form of entertainment both scared me, intrigued me, and humoured me, with its baroque and jovial ways. It only stands to reason, doesn't it? That creative people would enjoy creative things. Though I did not know how truly creative Roald was, until one evening when my Dad and I had an argument after watching this program.
You see, my Dad was explaining to me how Roald was an author as well as a narrator, and that he 'wrote that book with that Fantastic chap in it'. Now straight away I disagreed with my Papa, and said back to him "No way! It was Stan Lee who created Mr Fantastic! Not that paedophile on the telly". This then brought up a rather bold and frenetic discussion, where Dad was talking about one thing, and I was talking about something else altogether.
Our debate was concluded the very next day whilst I was at school. My Dad took it upon himself to take me straight to my teacher, Mr Smith, and asked him to tell me about his 'Mr Fantastic' and Roald connection. OK, I have to admit, initially, I wasn't that open to the idea that I could be incorrect with my presumption. But when 'Smithy' got down to the 'nitty-gritty', and elaborated how Roald Dahl wrote 'Willy Wanker', 'The Big Friendly Git', and 'The Twits', I was just blown way. So blown in fact, that for quite sometime afterwards I became somewhat obsessive with his wares. Divulging them one at a time, until I couldn't watch a Dahl related movie, without comparing it to its original works.
And do you know what? One thing still peeves my with that 'Wonker' film to this very day. I wanted them to do that scene where the square looks round. Know of it?
Anyway, enough about me and my childhood introductions, what about 'David Walliams - The Genius of Dahl'? Err. It was good all in all. I personally thought that it was very appropriate to have David Wallliams to be the guide for this program. Like Dahl, sometimes you are not sure how to take David, because he has that mannered and very alternate vibe about him. Moreover, David's childish yet bold exterior, plus association to children's literature, makes him a relevant and poignant candidate for this piece. Just as he was for the Frankie Howerd bio-pic (click here for the review).
As for the actual information on display itself? Ermm. So-so I suppose. This documentary touches upon Dahl's life in a very conceptual manner, and has that 'introductory edge' to it that makes it well worth a watch. I liked the story about how he reacted to his daughter's death. Plus the letter he wrote to his mother. But the rest of it is for someone who is not that familiar with his works or his origins.
Shame really. I would have like to have seen more about this creative genius's personal life. And how he interacted with his piers and his familiars. Still, this isn't that type of a program, is it? Instead, it's a hint of a great man and how his mind works. Nothing too in-depth. Nothing top overt. Just a flavor of a story within Dahl's life.
Just like my review in fact, don't you agree Mister 'Tales of the Unexpected'?
What a nice chap.
THE RATING: B+