Posts Tagged ‘taking kids to the theatre


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts – perfect school holiday entertainment!


Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts

shake & stir

Roundhouse Theatre

July 4 – 11 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


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. 





More a reflection of my lack of conviction in a situation as a parent than any annoyance at the response of a volunteer at the venue, I found myself, in teacher tone, addressing an usher about a drink before taking our seats at The Roundhouse on Saturday. I’m accustomed to pouring wine from a glass into a plastic cup in order to take it into the theatre, but I was surprised to be told that Poppy would need to do the same for her drink, which was in a pop-top sealed plastic bottle. I almost laughed out loud. Seriously?! You want my jumping-up-and-down-excited nine-year-old to take her seat in the theatre with an open cup of diluted juice? (Don’t ask! We are having sugar talks at the moment). As Poppy dutifully uncapped the bottle and poured her juice-water into an enormous plastic party cup (she’s an excellent pourer and transferrer), I wondered what other mamas would do. I can think of a couple that would simply say, “No. No thanks, I think I know my child” and another couple who would actually laugh and say, “Are you joking? THINK about what you’ve just said!” And I wish I’d said something other than okay and put the bottle-with-a-lid-shut-tight in my bag because sure enough, right at the end of the show, Poppy accidentally kicked the cup, spilling the remaining slightly sticky contents over the floor beneath her seat. OH, OOPS, WHAT A SURPRISE (I said sarcastically, silently in my head).


As a fairly conscious parent and a first aider from way back, my immediate response is always to check for danger, assess any injuries and avoid further catastrophe while keeping anyone involved calm and quiet. There are times when Sam makes it clear that this is not the correct response, that it’s too calm and without consequence for the culprit (he is referring to our child). But more often than not, the consequence is in the disaster, and in this case, Poppy was embarrassed and upset because she knew I had felt the better option was to not do what the usher had told her to. Also, she slipped and fell against her seat BUT IT’S OKAY SHE’S OKAY.




Why am I telling you this? Because going to see live theatre is about the whole experience, and often parents tell me it’s too hard to take their kids to see a show. If the venue makes it harder than parents already perceive the trip to be, who can say when they’ll be back?! Fortunately, nothing has ever deterred me from taking anyone to the theatre and Poppy is a resilient child, so despite her moment of mini-trauma (not only is she resilient but she’s also very dramatic. I don’t know where she gets it from), we agreed that Revolting Rhymes was the BEST EVER! AGAIN! Perfect school holiday entertainment for the whole family, nothing should keep you from enjoying this show.




If you’ve been around for a while you’ll know how much I love shake & stir, one of the country’s most professional and engaging theatrical teams, with such broad appeal they can consistently sell out work that reinvigorates the likes of Roald Dahl, Shakespeare, George Orwell, Harper Lee, Emily Bronte and Bram Stoker (trust me – there’s no doubt Dracula will sell out!).


It seemed unlikely that shake & stir could make a slicker, funnier show than last year’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Having had it on the road for some time (they just returned from a sell-out season in Hobart at the end of a national tour), the team has cranked up the pace and polished every aspect until this production sparkles even more brilliantly than before.




With the A-Team of design teams on board (Josh McIntosh, Jason Glenwright & Guy Webster), this show was always going to look and sound fabulous. The colours and textures – rich, warm autumnal tones, tulle and brocade – are vaguely reminiscent of the curtains in Captain Von Trapp’s house, which Maria makes into play clothes for the children. Yes, I know those are greener, but don’t tell me you didn’t think of them too. The overall aesthetic is one of magical rainy day dress ups and cubby house construction using tablecloths and sheets and pillows for hosting soft toy high tea parties. Perfect!




shake & stir think of everything.


The wonderfully talented, comical ensemble comprising Judy Hainsworth, Leon Cain, Nelle Lee & Nick Skubij strikes the right chord with an audience who are already vocally ready to participate, having sung at the top of their little voices before the show, “I GOT BILLS I GOTTA PAY!” (shake & stir always have the best pre-show soundtrack!).




Thenadier style, the actors pop up from under trapdoors in the revolve – the only set piece, brilliantly designed and utilised – and each performer tells us, “You think you know this story… You don’t!” There are giggles and then shrieks of laughter, from kids and parents (and from Leigh Buchanan, next to me, and Billy Bouchier and Paul Dellit in front!), as small bold voices call out, “Yes we do! YES WEEEEE DOOOOOO!” The atmosphere is vibrant and silly and fun. It feels like so many children’s birthday parties when at any minute things could turn to utter chaos, but a pretty distraction or little bit of structure is re-introduced at precisely the right time in order to avert disaster.


Director, Ross Balbuziente, like the perfect host, cleverly manipulates every moment of Revolting Rhymes, from the grisly to the ridiculously funny.


With the opening sequence setting a cheeky tone and a cracking pace, we can’t wait to see what comes next…again!




It was fun. It was hilarious. My favourite was Little Red. She was awesome. She was really funky, a tomboy instead of being a pretty little girly-girl. It was funny when she took the pistol out of her knickers. She was funny but you couldn’t trust her.


The porcupine one was funny and it was funny how she was so scared of the dentist, which was quite like real life because most people are actually scared of the dentist.


It was funny when the man dressed up as one of the ugly sisters. And Cinderella had to run home in her underwear and that’s just so different. In the Cinderella we are all used to her gown turns into rags so it’s much funnier to see her in her underwear.


And I loved the three bears, especially the mum because of her accent. This mum is my mum’s favourite character. She says Nelle is a scream. That’s something her mum, my Nanny, would say.


Mira said the crunching noises were a bit disconcerting…


It tells you more about the stories, like there is more to the stories, like the secrets of the stories.


It’s sometimes scary but not too scary.


It’s important that it looks good, that theatre looks good – the lights and the costumes are gorgeous, awesome – otherwise we’ll stop watching and just talk because we haven’t seen each other in such a long time.




Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts is holiday money well spent, perfect entertainment for all ages. You don’t need to be a child or take a child to enjoy this one. You just need to stick to your guns if challenged by an usher over a drink! Must close Saturday July 11!




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


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