Review: 1984 – shake & stir theatre company at QPAC Playhouse

Images: Dylan Evans

It’s tempting to discuss the plethora of socio-cultural themes and talking points that always seem to emerge whenever George Orwell’s, 1984 is rediscovered. However, and in the spirit of sparing our Greenroom readers an exhaustive and exhausting deconstruction of the source material, I want to focus more specifically on shake & stir’s interpretation, appropriation and ultimately adaptation of the classic novel first published in 1948. Continue reading Review: 1984 – shake & stir theatre company at QPAC Playhouse

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: Tequila Mockingbird – shake & stir theatre company and QPAC at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

Photo credit: Dylan Evans

We’ve written before about the work produced by the people involved with shake & stir theatre company, surely one of the most impressive and successful arts companies currently in operation in Queensland and, indeed, around Australia. (Type ‘shake and stir’  into the Search box to see what we’ve had to say over the years.)

Like many, I suspect, I had assumed we’d see the company’s signature physical story-telling at work on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee in much the same way they’d crafted George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, although the poster image of a very sultry Nelle Lee had me puzzled. Tequila Mockingbird breaks some exciting new ground for shake & stir who have  labelled this work, ‘a new Australian play created by shake & stir theatre co,’ and that it certainly is folks. Continue reading Review: Tequila Mockingbird – shake & stir theatre company and QPAC at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

Review: Animal Farm – shake and stir theatre company: Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)

Images: Stephen Henry

shake and stir are no strangers to Queensland theatre and, now that they’ve completed two national tours, are becoming familiar to audiences Australia-wide.

Last week I caught up with their latest production, a re-staging of their 2011, award-winning production of Animal Farm.  Adapted by Nick Skubij from George Orwell’s 1944 satirical novel about the horrors of totalitarianism under Stalin and directed by Michael Futcher, this production includes Nelle Lee, Ross Balbuziente, Tim Dashwood, Bryan Probets and Mr Skubij.

Toowoomba’s gorgeous Empire Theatre was the 27th venue in what has been a 5-month national tour for the company and, as you might expect of a well-run in production, the full house of young and old (over 1300) on Thursday night was treated to a polished, tight as a drum performance by the ensemble. I’ve made no secret elsewhere of my love of theatricality in the service of great story-telling, and this production exemplifies it with economy and clarity. Continue reading Review: Animal Farm – shake and stir theatre company: Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)

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: 1984 – Shake and Stir at QPAC Cremorne Theatre

I’ve come late to 1984; it’s well into the second week of a season that was sold out two weeks before opening.  Most of the reviews are in and they are unusually fulsome in their praise for a local production. I’m certainly not going to be different in that regard.

1984 is a cracker of a production – intelligent and theatrically clever as are all of Michael Futcher’s creations as stage director.

Orwell’s horror story of a society diseased by totalitarianism (of either the left or right variety) has been adapted for this production by two of Shake and Stir’s Artistic Directorate: Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij. Both Ms Lee and Mr Skubij are part of the first-rate onstage cast of five which also includes Ross Balbuziente, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets, who is truly excellent as the hapless and doomed Winston Smith. His skull-like image and haunted eyes are projected large on the huge screen that backs and enlarges the stage action. It complements that of Big Brother and, for those who know the novel, is used in a device at play’s conclusion that perfectly captures the tragedy of Orwell’s novel. The production also features screen and audio appearances from Alexander Butt, Veronica Neave, Naomi Price, Matthew Welsh and Walt Webster. Continue reading Review: 1984 – Shake and Stir at QPAC Cremorne Theatre