Children, News, Reviews, Theatre

Disco Dahl reworks fairytales

Review: shake and stir theatre company, Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts ⋅
Heath Ledger Theatre, August 14 
Review: Rosalind Appleby 

“I guess you think you know this story…” A head peers at us through a trap door: “You don’t!”

It’s an unsettling start to the show and provokes loud reactions from the audience of primary school children. But shake and stir theatre know their stuff and the four cast members move from this into a dance party routine with lights flashing and disco music pumping.

Just like that the audience is prepped for a fast-paced, brain exploding hour of Roald Dahl’s disreputable fairy tales.

It is the Brisbane-based theatre group’s third visit to Perth (you might remember George’s Marvellous Medicine from 2018) and this time they bring Dahl’s book Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts to life. Dahl’s rhyming couplets are gleefully narrated by the four cast members (Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee & Nick Skubij) who swap roles and costumes mid-breath. As they pop through the hidden windows, doors and trapdoors in designer Josh McIntosh’s circular wooden stage floor it feels like a cast of thousands.

Jason Glenwright’s lighting magically transforms each scene and cheeky visual gags match Dahl’s shock jock narrative, like the rag doll heads for the decapitation of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. Our favourite prop was the large sheet of fabric that appeared multiple times as a pond, a snail and a ballgown.

A sheet of fabric becomes a snail in Revolting Rhymes. Photo supplied.

Gender stereotypes get a good working over; a gutsy Little Red Riding Hood shoots the wolf herself with a pistol and wears his fur as a fashion statement. There are bucket loads (literally) of vomit, snot, blood, farts and even fireworks.

Who knew poetry could be so much fun?

Director Ross Balbuziete has created a show that elicits both rapt attention and uproarious laughter. Guy Webster’s sound design is key, not just the disco sound track but the perfectly timed sound effects that underpin every gag.

Along the way we learn helpful (?) moral lessons like “Always look before you sit” (The Porcupine), “A bath I guess does seem to pay, I’m going to have one every day” (Jack and the Beanstalk), and “Never trust a girl from the upper crust” (Little Red Riding Hood after saving one of the Three Little Pigs with her pistol and then… well we won’t give the end away but it involves more fashion accessories).

Of course there’s so much more to discuss – are fairy tales meant to be that gruesome? (Traditionally, yes!) What is the purpose of a fairy tale? How far can we change a story before it loses its meaning?

According to my kids (aged 6 and 8) everyone should see the show because it is all about bad, silly, stupid, funny, mean and interesting things. Just be careful of the prince who chops off heads.

Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts continues until August 16.

Pictured top: Judy Hainsworth and Nelle Lee in the Snow White scene. Photo supplied.

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Woman dressed in fairy tale costume
August 19, Calendar, Children, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Children: Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts

13 – 16 August @ The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Shake & Stir ·

Think you know the stories of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk? Think again! Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts bursts off the page in a spectacular live show, taking the world’s best-­loved fairy tales and rearranging them with some surprising and hilarious twists.

Seriously funny and frighteningly silly, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts is the perfect family entertainment especially for children 5 to 25, that’s sure to delight and disgust in equal measure.

Making their 3rd visit to Perth the multi Helpmann Award winning team at shake & stir have adapted the works of Roald Dahl to fit a 55 mins format which will have the kids and adults squirming with delight!

Tuesday 13 August at 10am, 1pm & 6pm
Wednesday 14 August  at 10am, 1pm & 6:30pm
Thursday 15 August at 10am & 6:30pm
Friday 16 August at 10am, 4:30pm & 6:30pm

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Pared down & Picasso-esque

Review: The Twits – Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ◆
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 6 December ◆
Review by Varnya Bromilow ◆

Recreating a beloved children’s book can be, well, fraught.  Not only do you have to deal with the bald candour of kids, there’s also the fierce nostalgia of grown-up children to confront.  And so it is with Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s new incarnation of Roald Dahl’s The Twits.  This convoluted and very funny tale has been distilled into a one-hour show by actor and writer, Humphrey Bower, assisted by director Michael Barlow.  It is a big ask.

If you’re not familiar, The Twits tells the story of Mr and Mrs Twit, a revolting, twisted couple who enjoy a life punctuated by pranks.  United by their malice, this husband and wife seek to scare, disgust and horrify each other on a daily basis.  Spare Parts chooses to let the narrative do the heavy-lifting in this two-hander, utilising a spartan set and a surprisingly restrained use of puppets.  The Twits are represented by two gaudy, paper-mache creations (created by Leon Hendroff) their features chaotically adrift on their faces.  It’s the first of several unusual choices – the characters in the book are pointedly hideous, which one would think is fertile ground for a puppet-maker, but these representations are more Picasso-esque than ugly.  Part of the sneaky delight of The Twits is surely marvelling at the abhorrence of the protagonists (both inner and outer), but here we’re deprived of that guilty pleasure.  Is this a response to the mean-spirited text that equates ugliness with nastiness, or is it a puppet-maker’s desire to present something less literal?

The actors sporting these masks – Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Geordie Crawley – make fine fodder out of the pared-down script.  Crawley is particularly good, revelling in the stinky misanthropy of his character; his loose-limbed physicality a fitting vehicle for the flatulent contortions of Mr Twit.  In such a spare set, with minimal puppetry, the task of bringing the script to life falls entirely to these two actors.  They do an admirable job, but ultimately this adaptation seems hurried and oddly repetitive.  Much of Dahl’s fabulous gibberish is left out, likely to keep the show to an hour, but it means that the final effect is an abbreviated experience, largely devoid of the nonsensical flourishes that make the book such a riot.  As the young fans I went with later explained… “it just wasn’t as funny as the book.”  A big ask, to be sure.

The Twits plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, Jan 8-27.

Photo: J. Wyld

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