Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts
La Boite and shake & stir
January 8 – 18 2014
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
This famous wicked little tale
Should never have been put on sale
It is a mystery to me
Why loving parents cannot see
That this is actually a book
About a brazen little crook…
You think you know this story… You don’t.
In a previous life, Jason Glenwright must have been a rock star because he sure knows how to light one. And if Josh McIntosh did not dress royalty at some stage I’ve got my readings wrong. Whether or not you’re any sort of theatrical aficionado, you’re likely to recognise the design work of both these gentlemen by now; it’s pretty distinctive and I’m not the only one to have raved about it in the past. Also, Guy Webster’s sound design, including perfectly timed sound effects that have the kids in fits of giggles, adds to the wonderful theatricality and simple joy of this production, obviously lovingly inspired by Roald Dahl’s witty words and Quentin Blake’s original delightful illustrations. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts was always going to be a hit with the kids, but to win over the grown ups within the opening ten seconds using music, lighting and a revolving stage is quite a feat! If you’re a stranger to shake & stir’s shows, this one will be the first of many, I guarantee it, and if you miss it, you’ll be doing yourself and your kids a huge disservice. Why not book now and come back to read the rest?
It’s a rock concert, a Hip Hop film clip, a fairytale, and a favourite book brought to vivid life, all rolled into one and all PG-Rated. It’s the perfect solution for some school holiday fun that the whole family will enjoy, really.
And I mean THE WHOLE FAMILY. REALLY. These four performers are awesome, and the company already has a massive secondary school following so don’t think twice about booking the extra seats for the teens, they’ll love it! And Dads will surely remember fondly, their fave Revolting Rhymes, as well as (and I don’t mind being the one to point it out!), find themselves completely captivated by Nelle Lee, who is always absolutely gorgeous to watch.
You might recall last year’s co-pro between shake & stir and La Boite Theatre Company, the sell-out holiday hit Out Damn Snot!, and you might wonder what will come next, because this is a winning formula, and a winning partnership between two of Brisbane’s most progressive and most popular theatre companies. I love that this time slot each year, towards the end of our longest, hottest, sometimes most tedious school holiday run, can feature well-loved children’s stories turned upside down and inside out, challenging and entertaining all ages. Seeing the shake & stir show before school goes back is one tradition I’m more than happy to help establish.
Despite a couple of gruesome moments, Poppy and the other opening night kids laughed along with their parents at shake & stir’s bold interpretations of Dahl’s updates to the classic fairytales. A self-sufficient, savvy Little Red Riding Hood whips a pistol from her knickers and shoots the wolf that gobbles up her grandmother, in order to make herself a beautiful fur cloak, and later…well, we won’t give that one away but if you love your accessories, you’ll love the haute couture reference. We also see a different side to Jack (of Beanstalk fame), and (naughty, nasty, selfish) Goldilocks. That conclusion is bit of a shocker, be warned, but we can’t help to feel that the “brazen little crook” deserves her untimely end! One of my favourite characters is Nelle Lee’s Mama Bear, of solid New York Jewish stock. But Poppy loved Little Red the most because she was different. “You wouldn’t like it if everyone was just the same as you,” she told me. “She was brave and spunky.” Wait. Does my daughter not consider herself to be brave and spunky? Oh, right. “In a different way. She has to survive in the woods, Mum.” This makes me picture my child having to survive in the woods, and in my vision she is something like Little Red and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Anyway, I equate this to Poppy having a Hunger Games type idol, which concerns me little since the best women in history have always been able to defend themselves, and this Little Red is so reminiscent of Sondheim’s Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods that we can’t help but adore her, admire her, and fear her just a little.
They are all absolutely sensational characterisations.
We love the revolving stage, ideal for The Roundhouse space, although it’s not set completely in-the-round, it’s used effectively to hide and light and reveal performers and props; this is particularly evident in The Three Little Pigs. A single piece of fabric serves multiple purposes, and basic costume additions during the course of the show remind us that it doesn’t take much more than the imagination to conjure a story, but of course the technical and theatrical elements certainly help to make this a slick one. The pace is fast; the script, straight from “the world’s number one storyteller”, is funny and the performers engaging. They are Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij, a tight, super talented ensemble guided by Director, Ross Balbuziente. We know from the very first moments that this is a clever crew, who get precisely what it is their audience wants; they are up for fun and games, and deliver with ease a multitude of clever and entertaining character voices, sharp moves (choreographed by Sally Hare), and retellings of our favourite Roald Dahl rhymes and stories. The 90 minutes fly by and Poppy whispers loudly to me, “Is that all? Oh.” She wishes there was more to come. And perhaps there will be.
When you love a show, do you let the company know?
If we keep up with shouting out loud about what’s great, venues and presenters know what they need to keep bringing back! You could email them, but why not leave a comment on their Facebook page or Instagram account? Tweet your 140-character review? The social media presence of both these companies, especially shake & stir’s online presence, is inspiring and heartening. This is a company who hears us and continues to create crowd pleasers without compromising their own artistic objectives. This means we are regularly treated to an incredible selection of top notch theatre in Brisbane, guaranteed quality, for artists and audiences alike. More of this, please shake & stir!
In Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts there are some slightly gruesome life lessons and a heap of fun for everyone. It’s a gorgeous looking production, with not a dull moment, but if you hesitate for even a moment you WILL miss out! And that WOULD be criminal. Treat yourself and your kids to this production before the holidays are over and you have to return to the real world!