Roald Dahl's dark 'Dirty Beasts' set to music for children

Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:00pm EST
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Roald Dahl's "Dirty Beasts" poems have a musical cadence which may explain why, after the success of stage versions of "Matilda" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", three of them are being set to music to introduce young people to the orchestra.

The anteater which gobbles a spoiled rich boy's aunt, the flying toad which can turn itself into a roly-poly bird to escape frog-loving French gourmands, and the girl with a bag of sweets who sits on a porcupine and has to have quills removed by a dentist have been orchestrated by composer Benjamin Wallfisch for a February premiere at London's Southbank Centre.

"In these times when kids have so many options, I was hoping with this piece aimed at people under the age of 10 to inspire them to explore the orchestra," Wallfisch, 34, who comes from a distinguished British musical family, told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

The premiere will take place during Southbank's "Imagine" children's festival, which this year features a major strand of Dahl tributes to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".

Luke Kelly, Dahl's grandson who helps direct his estate and who was in London on Friday for the festival launch, said the late Welsh-born author and onetime fighter pilot had a knack for writing works that lend themselves to adaptations.

"The characters are so boiled down and the humor is so present I think it does translate to many mediums, whether it's musical, films or operas," Kelly, 27, told Reuters.

Wallfisch, whose enthusiasm for the Dahl project bubbles down the telephone line, would seem to be an ideal choice for setting his off-beat, dark-hued poems to music.

He has scored movies ranging from the Norse action film "Hammer of the Gods", with an all-electronic music track, to a lush, Vaughan Williams-esque score for "Summer in February", set in an artists' colony in the English county of Cornwall.   Continued...