Perspectives, Series 2, Episode 4: David Walliams – The Genius of Dahl
“Actor and comedian David Walliams explores the magic behind the storytelling of Roald Dahl, one of the world’s most successful children’s authors.”
ITV’s replacement for the lamented South Bank Show, Perspectives races through its’ current short run on UK terrestrial channel ITV1, with celebrities presenting each arts documentary on a favourite subject. In The Genius of Dahl, sometime children’s author Walliams goes in depth into the life of one of his inspirational authors. If you know his work in Little Britain and other shows full of extreme caricatures, it’s no surprise to find a Dahl fan.
Walliams looks over the Norwegian folktales that Dahl was read as a child, visits the old sweetshop and school and much time is spent at the Dahl museum and archive, to look at Dahl’s writing hut and compares early drafts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As this is clearly an ‘authorised’ documentary, it is warm, fuzzy, cosy and nothing less than a flattering picture of a man who had his dark side – all of which is carefully airbrushed out.
That does allow Walliams to concentrate on the work, with contributions from Dahl’s family, long-time illustrator Quentin Blake, Joanna Lumley, Michael Rosen, comedian and now composer of the Matilda musical Tim Minchin and Dahl’s biographer Donald Sturrock, as well as contributions from the Dahl museum curators.
Walliams is a quietly spoken, low-key host, his hushed tones filled with uncritical admiration for Dahl, in a show that pins its’ colours to its’ title, ‘the Genius of…’ The sections in which Walliams reads extracts of Dahl to a group of children fall a little flat – Walliams on TV is a little out of their age range and I don’t suppose they were that bothered by his micro-TV scale reading. Us grown-ups could stand a little more time in his company, however, away from the Dahl-like grotesques of the sketch shows.
In contrast with Lenny Henry, working-class Dudley-ite turned classical actor, on Shakespeare two weeks ago, determined to open up the Bard to give back to the people, Walliams pressed for the elevation of Dahl beyond National Treasure to literary respectability. Ignoring the controversy of dumbing-down the arts strand in public broadcasting, Perspectives has given us some interesting takes on a broad range of subjects and adequately fills its brief for the late Sunday night slot. RC
You can catch up with this and other Perspectives shows on ITV player.
A full interview with David Walliams about the show is at the ITV Press Centre
Perspectives, Season 2, Episode 4: David Walliams The Genius of Dahl
Sunday, 22 April 2012, 10:15PM-11:15PM
Production house: Ten Alps
The full run of Perspectives documentaries in this season: