Posts Tagged ‘fun for kids


Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts

La Boite and shake & stir

The Roundhouse

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.


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. Image by Dylan Evans.


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.


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. Image by Dylan Evans.


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!


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. Image by Dylan Evans.


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!



Angelina Ballerina The Mousical


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical


QPAC Concert Hall

8 – 12 January 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical


Everyone’s favourite little star Angelina Ballerina pirouettes live onto the stage in her brand new musical – a magical show packed full of singing and dancing with an all UK cast!


Angelina and her friends think their dreams have come true when Camembert Academy wins the opportunity to appear in their favourite television programme ‘Dancing With Mice!’ But when the girls and boys have very different ideas for the show and just can’t seem to agree on anything, it’s up to Angelina as Dance Captain to ensure that the show goes ahead.


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical is recommended for children aged 3 – 6 and I wondered whether or not Poppy would be too old for it but she and a friend enjoyed this production and talked about it afterwards, all the way over to GOMA.


Any time QPAC (or any other venue or presenter) is kind enough to offer a family pass to a show, Poppy and I think quickly, “Which friends have never been to the theatre?” We’ve never had any trouble finding friends who have never been to a show, let alone to a show in Brisbane. This is a slight concern, for a family whose lives just about revolve around theatre and feel very strongly that there needs to be just as much of The Arts as there is sports in everybody’s lives, but it also means we can keep offering the experience of live theatre to somebody new!


The girls were so excited, largely because one of them knew what was happening and one of them didn’t; I kept this trip a surprise for Poppy because she’s lucky to see so much theatre and sometimes I think the novelty must be wearing off! So Mira knew what we were up to, and kept the surprise a secret too. It was only when we got to QPAC and one of the lovely, friendly girls at the bottom of the stairs asked, “Are you going to Angelina Ballerina?” that Poppy’s eyes lit up, and she put two and two together…I’d helped her dress ballerina style after all!


Tip: be organised! Know where you’re going, where you can park, or take public transport, and get to the theatre early enough to sort tickets at the Box Office, have a bite to eat and take little ones to the toilet without having to rush.


We were papped by The Sunday Mail’s photographer, Tara, and took our own pics in front of the media wall, which was another new experience for Mira, but par for the course for Poppy. There were, as expected, some  much younger children there, many of them sporting pink flickering mouse ears from the merch stand (it’s a teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall for the Concert Hall gigs, as opposed to the Lyric Theatre’s merch store across the way, being set up before our eyes for The Rocky Horror Show …how excitement!), so the Concert Hall foyer looked more like an Ekka crèche, or Woodford’s Land of Nod on New Year’s Eve. Thank goodness most of the parents had the sense to switch their kids’ ears to “Off” once they were seated and the lights dimmed.

Mira and Poppy enjoyed some reasonably healthy snacks before we went into the show. I don’t let kids eat in the theatre during the show because at seven-nearly-eight years old they’re old enough to wait, and unlike our cinema culture, I think there needs to be a certain level of respect for performers who are working live in a traditional theatre setting. If my child was diabetic or just two or three years of age I might make an exception and throw in a quiet snack.


Tip: pack some yummy snacks for kids. If you don’t, be sure to get there early enough to pick something up. At QPAC I’ve seen desperate mums buying packets of chips from the bar while eyeing off the wine list, but for a healthier option you can take a quick walk beneath the whales and visit the museum café, which offers snack packs for $7.50 (and lunch packs for $10.50).


The show was a little clunky to start. The vocals were lost for a good 10 minutes beneath the volume of the musical tracks, and a strangely placed reprise of the opening number had me worried, but the performers were full of energy, the levels were corrected soon enough, the costumes and the stage looked bright and colourful, and the story proved full of great lessons, which Poppy and Mira agreed were just right, and delivered in beautiful British accents to boot, from the all-UK cast!



Hold a friend’s hand, ask for help when you need it, work hard and work together to make all your dreams come true.



It’s not easy selling a show to kids – sometimes they are the harshest critics – and this smiling ensemble does a fine job. Discerning dance fans may pick up on a couple of demi pointe wobbles and imperfect arms but overall, and bearing in mind the recommended age range, I think we can be a little forgiving. A special appearance from the cutest little ballet girls ever, guests from a local dance studio, earned our delighted giggles and applause for their courage and cute factor.


Not surprisingly, Angelina Ballerina, the only dancer en pointe, was the firm favourite, though the girls said they also enjoyed the Hip Hop mouse, AJ. Within the story, there was a very clear message that girls and boys are different, and I wondered at the repetition of “Ballet Girls and Hip Hop Boys” – are we perpetuating the myths and reinforcing the stereotypes, or just facing plain old truths? In Year Two last year, there was a strong focus on “Busting Stereotypes” so Poppy and Mira were ready to talk about this. She agrees about the stereotypes but all the same – and here’s the power of live theatre and a repeated message – she clapped and cheered for the girls and their ballet, and booed the boys and their Hip Hop! She is giggling about it now as we write this! Over lunch, Poppy and Mira laughed and chanted, “Girls win, boys in the bin! Girls win, boys in the bin!” Mum and I remembered the chants we used to hear, “Boys are strong like King Kong! Girls are weak, chuck ‘em in the creek!” Do you remember a distinct “boys v girls” phase in your primary school days? The Dance Off between the girls and boys, and the final performance of their Dancing With Mice piece for the television audience (us) surely won over anybody with any misgivings about reinforcing stereotypes.


Angelina Ballerina


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical is a lovely production. It’s lots of fun for kids, and with enough decent dance and intellect to challenge the slightly older brothers and sisters; you could just about get away with taking the whole family. (The over eights probably not so much!). We noticed a couple of dads and grandfathers there, and the little boys enjoyed the show as much as any of the girls adorned head to toe in their ballet pink! And why would they not? The magic of live theatre is something every child should be experiencing well before Poppy’s age, and the joy of seeing the delight on the face of a little one is really why so many of the grown ups enjoy the children’s shows. There is so much children’s theatre on offer it’s easy to pick a quality production at any time of year. There’s really no excuse for not taking your kids to the theatre! In fact, often there is so much good stuff on in Brisbane it becomes a process of elimination…what can you actually afford to see, in terms of time, cost and energy?


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical must finish on Sunday. Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play continues until January 25 and shake & stir’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts opens tonight at The Roundhouse (we’ll see you there!), and runs until January 18



Angelina Ballerina The Mousical opens tomorrow at QPAC!




Angelina Ballerina The Mousical


In an all-singing, all-dancing musical theatre show, children’s book and television favourite Angelina Ballerina will perform live in a brand new ‘Mousical’ at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from 8 to 12 January 2014.


With three more weeks of school holidays, I bet you’re looking for something else for the kids to do! You know my first choice is ALWAYS live theatre, which we balance very well I think, with swimming, running, building sandcastles, climbing trees, cooking, baking, crafting, colouring mandalas, painting, gardening, talking with the chooks, de-cluttering, cleaning, dancing, singing and reading. Phew! I know! Sometimes we even see something new at the cinema. We LOVED Frozen, despite its slow start! Have you seen it yet? What did you think? You see, we don’t do real TV – we haven’t watched commercial television for three years – so we’re really good at finding things to do at home, but if there’s a live theatre option we opt for it first!


Sometimes I wonder whether or not Poppy is too old now for “children’s holiday theatre”, you know, for example ANGELINA BALLERINA THE MOUSICAL. This is what I figure. She loves shows. She loves seeing a live performance, she loves the whole experience of going to the theatre, and she loves discussing the show afterwards. Also, important to note, this particular production draws on a clever reference to Dancing With the Stars, which Poppy (and certainly the children who watch commercial television on a regular basis) are familiar with. Sadly, without normal TV we don’t keep up with the real thing, despite our mate, Dan MacPherson hosting it! But when we worked with White House Celebrations to present Dancing With The Local Stars at The Events Centre, Caloundra, in 2011 for Hear and Say, Poppy was right there with us, at rehearsals and at the final fundraising gala event sound check, along with Todd McKenney and our local identities. There will be plenty of much younger children at QPAC tomorrow but I know Poppy will LOVE Angelina Ballerina The Mousical!


Angelina Ballerina The Mousical transports audiences to Chipping Cheddar, as Angelina and friends discover that Camembert Academy has won the opportunity to appear in their favourite television program ‘Dancing With Mice!’. It feels like a dream come true – but when the girls and boys have very different ideas for the show and just can’t seem to agree on anything, it’s up to Angelina as Dance Captain to ensure that the show goes ahead.


The national tour and Australian premiere of Angelina Ballerina The Mousical is based on award-winning children’s book series by author Katharine Holabird and illustrator Helen Craig. Angelina Ballerina was first launched in 1983 and has since garnered huge international acclaim, with over 20 books published and an animated television series broadcast in Australia, UK and US amongst other countries.


This brand new stage show is written and directed by Miranda Larson, with music by Barrie Bignold, choreography by Matthew Cole and set and costume designs by Isla Shaw. 


The Mousical is produced by Nick Brooke Ltd (The Gruffalo, The Tiger Who Came To Tea) and BOS Productions Ltd (The Railway Children, An Inspector Calls). Director Miranda Larson has written for both theatre and television with TV credits including Thomas the Tank Engine and theatre credits for scripts and lyrics including Bob The Builder Live and Little Princess Live on Stage. Composer Barrie Bignold has been a conductor and musical director of various West End shows including Some Like It Hot and Little Shop of Horrors and has written for children’s television shows including The Tweenies and Sooty. Choreographer Matthew Cole has worked on various productions including BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and Qdos Entertainment pantomime Aladdin.