William Dawson, of the Museum’s Front of House team, recounts a trip to Venue Cymru to inspire the crowds with some Revolting Rhymes.
Like Roald Amundsen, the polar explorer he was named after, Roald Dahl was a real lover of adventure and courted it throughout his life, from his days flying with the RAF during the Second World War, to his walks exploring the Chiltern Hills in his later years.
It was in this spirit that my colleague and partner-in-crime Will Littlewood and I set out the other day for a storytelling event as part of takepART at Venue Cymru in Llandudno. Some might scoff at the idea of a trip to Wales being an adventure, but those who do might need a little help from Roald Dahl’s stories to rediscover the power of imagination.
A Best of the 90s CD in the audio, the wind blowing, a storm brewing on the horizon, provided the perfect setting for the four hour drive that lay ahead of our weekend of creative chaos. With The Venga Boys greatest hits thoroughly exhausted, we arrived at our home for the weekend and a setting reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel: a rickety old, probably haunted hotel standing on top of a hill overlooking the crashing waves. Several sheep gathered by the roadside to welcome us and laugh as we battled the gale force winds.
After a night of speculating on what we might find at Venue Cymru, we arrived at 9am to an explosion of vibrancy and excitement. The venue was enormous, decorated with brightly coloured balloons at every turn, with stages dedicated to different performers in every corner. The wall of sound was the first thing to hit us: music, laughter and the long-suffering sighs of parents chasing after over-excited children.
We were greeted by an incredible range of acts: characters from Doctor Who, the cast of Horrible Histories and even a Footloose dance flash-mob, though sadly Kevin Bacon was not in attendance. We were shown to our area, a cleverly designed miniature theatre, curtained off from the rest of the event. Fantastically we had been given a large performance space, with our own professional light and sound set-ups. As if awaiting our arrival, at the very front of the space sat a large armchair under a spotlight. The setting for our Roald Dahl themed madness was perfect.
It had been a while since we’d donned our Museum purple shirts, unpacked our cases full of costumes and crafts, and tested our storytelling voices, but thankfully, muscle-memory quickly kicked in. After a brief rehearsal we sat nervously in the wings awaiting the arrival of the audience. We were surprised and overjoyed to find that even at 10am (the time of our first performance) the people of Llandudno were demanding Roald Dahl stories! The venue was almost completely full, fuelling our nerves but these were swiftly dispelled and replaced by laughter.
That first performance set the tone for the weekend as over the next two days we were greeted by enthusiastic audiences who were more than willing to join in and heckle at every opportunity.
Suitably shattered, we ended the weekend with our biggest audience of all, spilling out of the entrance of our makeshift theatre. We were rewarded by roars of laughter as Will killed me for the umpteenth time (in character as the Wolf in Roald Dahl’s version of Little Red Riding Hood from his Revolting Rhymes book of course), and with a massive round of applause, it was a wrap.