BLOG Sophie Baggott

NWR Issue 110

The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion, Cardiff

National Theatre Wales’ 'Candylion' felt, rather aptly, like an evening on the ultimate sugar rush. Brimming with technicolour hype, Cardiff’s cricket stadium hardly knew what hit it. Staff greeted us with wide smiles and canvas bags of memorabilia before we weaved our way into ‘Pixel Valley’, where bizarre brilliance awaited.

A onesie-clad Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and his backing band emerged, launching into introductions to our cast. Assorted animal-ish characters took to the stage, including the two leads: Caruin (half carnation, half penguin) and Candylion (half candyfloss, half lion). This opening silliness set my expectations for a bland, childish hour or so. First impressions couldn’t have been more wrong.

Pixel Valley has always been a happy community where all are equal in pulling their weight, yet one wrong turn sees young Candylion spiral into a crazed dictator. As their society plummets, the band’s punchy beats and razor-sharp lyrics entertain kids and adults alike. Characters shimmy onstage with brilliantly old-school dance routines set to left-leaning lyrics. The sight of a pouting Meringutan (half meringue, half orangutan) punching the air as the group sings of turbo-capitalism – 'like an aneurysm' – is worth the ticket in itself. The recipe of political analysis and singalong is an uproarious success.

Candylion’s descent into fascism makes for some of the show’s unlikeliest comedic highlights. Atop a podium, the self-imposed leader realises her script has vanished and she must now fabricate a completely meaningless speech. As part-time narrator, Rhys shrugs and grunts: 'People do it all the time.' Amid the psychedelic pop vibes, despotic slogans ring: 'If you’re not pink you sink ... The Candy way is the only way.'

Only Caruin harbours doubts as Candylion’s oppression balloons – literally. The once small, sweet bundle of pink gradually morphs into an enormous inflatable lion. Caruin alone gives up and begins his long waddle to freedom out of Pixel Valley. Will he boomerang back to save the day or find peace in a less skewed society?

This kaleidoscope of wacky staging, acute political commentary and toddler-tickling playfulness is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is fantastic. Where else but in Pixel Valley might an account of the trickle-down effect be packaged up as a cuddly chat between friends? Candylion’s justification that 'there’s too much beautiful stuff in a jar so it spills over the sides' is met by scepticism from Caruin: 'Um, not a great offer is it? Drips.'

Tim Price’s script juggles each element of its wide-ranging audience with flair. The cast also does superbly in entertaining all ages. As an avowed hater of festive pantomime, on paper 'Candylion' perhaps would not win me over – but this is so much more than panto. I can only predict a very hearty appetite in south Wales for the extravaganza that is 'The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion'.

Sophie Baggott is a blogger in residence for New Welsh Review and a Journalism MA candidate at Cardiff University.

Image: Remy Beasley & Matthew Bulgo photo Farrows Creative/NTW

'The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion' is suitable for everyone ages 4+ and runs until 2 January at the SSE SWALEC Stadium Cardiff, Tickets: children £12.50, adults £17.50 (C £15), family of 4 including 1 child: £50. The production was written by Tim Price, directed by Wils Wilson, with music & lyrics by Gruff Rhys, and was conceived by Gruff Rhys, Wils Wilson and Tim Price from an original idea by Gruff Rhys, Pete Fowler and Mark James. Full Credits, Cast & Accessibility



       


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