Review: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts: shake and stir and La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse

Images: Dylan Evans

It’s the middle summer and in every suburb the cry goes up, “We’re booored!” Kids and their parents are desperate for diversionary tactics to stem the tide of wailing and to escape into the relief of some air-conditioned goodness for an hour or two. Just in time, as they do each year, La Boite Theatre Company produces a show to delight the generations. This year the inimitable shake and stir return with an adaptation of two of Roald Dahl‘s classic books. It’s a compendium of naughty nursery tales entitled Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts directed by Ross Balbuziente.

Our house has an almost 30 years old, wonderfully dog-eared, much-loved copy of Revolting Rhymes lying on a shelf somewhere, and I think Dirty Beasts is somewhere at the bottom of a playbox in the shed – stuff you can’t throw out because the memories they hold are too precious. I recall the fun we had at bedtime perusing Quentin Blake’s great line-drawing illustrations and ‘doing the voices’ of the mad array of characters that Dahl brought to life. Gosh, is it that long ago. But to the production … Continue reading Review: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts: shake and stir and La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse

Review: Out Damn Snot – Shake and Stir at La Boite Theatre Roundhouse

Images: Dylan Evans

Let me get one thing out of the way up front. I’m not at all keen on shows where adults play kids. The sight of 20-somethings leaping around pretending to be children can be embarrassingly awful, twee, and an insult to kids who just don’t behave the way they are often portrayed on stage. I wondered how kids felt about this and thought about sending along another reviewer to get a different perspective. However, Miss 8 was not available for the opening night of Shake and Stir’s Out Damn Snot directed by Ross Balbuziente. That left me to face my misgivings. Whilst I still think there’s a missed opportunity here to use children to play children in plays for children (some company care to have a go?) there is no doubt that this hilarious, very physical, beautiful-looking show written and created by Shake and Stir’s artistic directors Ross Balbuziente, Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij is great fun for kids and their adults.

I wasn’t sure what the kids in the audience would make of the two sisters Mackenzie (Amy Ingram), Kimmy (Nelle Lee) and little brother Heath (Nick Skubij). Given that they knew the actors were grown-ups, would they buy into the game that these were kids like them? Given their own capacity to role play on the fly, I’d say the young audience were perfectly accepting of these mad adults releasing their own inner kids and mucking about cartoon-style in a magic world. Buy this and it becomes a different experience. I really did enjoy the simplicity of the actors’ child-like (not childish) observations of game-playing and one-upmanship. My favourite is the one where we both try to tell a story simultaneously; you start and I have to join in and do it with you. Know the one? Magic! Ms Lee and Ingram release their inner-child with this lovely little slick schtick. Continue reading Review: Out Damn Snot – Shake and Stir at La Boite Theatre Roundhouse

Review: Orphans – Queensland Theatre Company (Studio) @ Bille Brown Studio

It’s a cool and drizzly Brisbane winter night, the wind is blowing off the river and I’ve scooted back in quick time from my current-neighbourhood playhouse – the Bille Brown Studio at 78 Montague Road. I’ve been disturbed rather more than I would have thought possible by Dennis Kelly’s Orphans, a play out of contemporary Britain that lays bare another part of the barbaric underbelly of the carefully manicured middle class. I wanted to get home, turn the lights on and clear my head.

Orphans‘ action is relentless, and it doesn’t let go for its 105 or so minutes’ playing time. It hooks you from the get-go as the blood-stained figure of Liam bursts in on his sister Helen at home and eating dinner with her husband Danny. Their young son Shane is away – being baby-sat, and they’re having a quiet night at home – a ‘celebratory dinner’ cooked by Danny. We learn Helen is pregnant. The couple appear to be reasonably well-off; they live in a tasteful, beige on beige apartment which is interpreted with spot-on minimalist restraint in Sam Paxton‘s design.

Kat Henry directs this production for Queensland Theatre Company’s Studio with pace and flair. The starkness of Ben Hughes‘ lighting design and the cinematic atmosphere of Guy Webster’s sound composition create a stage world that beautifully complements the play’s dialogue – fragmented, naturalistic sounding yet meticulously crafted to reflect all the tempo-rhythms, poetry and ambiguities of everyday speech. Continue reading Review: Orphans – Queensland Theatre Company (Studio) @ Bille Brown Studio

Review: Man=Man & The Elephant Calf – Queensland Theatre Company

Trimmed version of photograph released into th...
Image via Wikipedia
Photo: Amelia Dowd (Bille Brown Studio – after the flood)

Off to the theatre last night to see QTC Ed’s (the Company’s education ‘wing’) production of two small Brecht pieces: Man=Man and The Elephant Calf. The mostly grown-up audience responded well to Director Joe Mitchell’s cleverly recalibrated, joyously performative and wonderfully funny examination of Brechtian theatre techniques.

If you have been as underwhelmed as this theatre-lover has been over the years at the near-veneration afforded Brecht, especially in the state’s drama syllabus, then this production is a revelation. It’s irreverent and also Brechtian-authentic to the core. The pickiest of drama teachers are going to love the way it ticks all the boxes in the Brechtian Performance Techniques check-list. It’s also set to stir their classes to ask ‘WTF?’ Oh, and speaking of ‘WTF’ – the text is visibly strewn with the ‘F Bomb’; do schools still have to vet shows for the kind of  language found in the playground and on the school bus? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in some of the classrooms where this production is being discussed. I’ve attended several QTC Ed shows over the years with audiences of upper high school-age students. Each time I have been astonished and delighted at the level of sophistication and maturity displayed by these young people during the post-show Q&As.

The ensemble cast of six (Chris Vernon, Helen Cassidy, Nick Cook, Anthony Standish, Leon Cain and  Kevin Kiernan-Molloy) are uniformly excellent. Mitchell has set the play in some middle-eastern war zone and the hapless civilian Galy Gay (Vernon) a kind of opportunistic Everyman figure finds himself buffeted by the winds of politics and macho posturing by the soldiers who take him in. The cast are aided and abetted in the onstage mayhem by a very visible crew (led by SM Christopher Horne at the desk). ‘The Director’ remains as an offstage and nicely nameless authoritarian figure who is finally challenged by the team of ‘actors as actors’ in the last 10 or so minutes of the program. This section kicked over any remaining vestiges of the wall separating audience and performer. The meshing of form and content and examination of the nature of reality and performance was, for me, the most interesting and alienating (in the best Brechtian sense of the word) part of the program. Chatting to a cast member afterwards I learned that it had been created in the last week of the rehearsal period. Bravo!

As the standard bearer for a much wider program of education services, QTC’s Ed productions in the Bille Brown Studio, all under Joe Mitchell’s direction, have been one of the best kept secrets for far too long amongst the city’s post-school theatre-going crowd. It’s good to see the Company including one or two of these intelligent and excellent productions in their new Studio program series this year. Joe Mitchell will be missed; he is leaving QTC to take up a new position in the Brisbane performing arts industry. Good luck Joe!

This production (approx 95 mins without interval) plays at the Company’s home premises at 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane until March 12. Check the showtimes from the QTC website. You’ve got a week – give yourself a treat.

Disclaimer: I am currently the Chairman of the Board, Queensland Theatre Company. My opinions are entirely my own and should be understood as distinct from any affiliation I hold with this or any other business or arts organisation. The only barrow I push is that of theatre per se.

 

Review: Domestic Violence in the Chatroom – I Love You Bro’ at La Boite Theatre

I’ve often found myself using the caveat about something outrageous from real life … mostly behaviour … you know how it goes, ‘If they put that on stage, no one would believe it!’ Well, someone did. Adam J Cass, in fact. The writer of I Love You Bro‘ La Boite’s latest, directed by David Berthold takes the real-life extraordinary circumstances of a 14 year old from Manchester in the UK who conspired to kill himself.  He and his dupe, an online chat friend ‘MarkyMark’ were eventually arrested and charged with attempted murder and incitement to murder. Yes indeed, an unbelievable (almost) real story and another in the ‘troubled teen’ genre, one that’s absurd, tragic and hints at that bogeyman of the ‘dangerous web.’ I thought in passing as I left the building after the performance that La Boite could quite easily have sub-titled their 2010 season as ‘People behaving crazily at full stretch.’ It’s been one of those years at the Roundhouse so far. Continue reading Review: Domestic Violence in the Chatroom – I Love You Bro’ at La Boite Theatre