Above: Nelle Lee, Tim Dashwood and Leon Cain as Bunce, Bean and Boggis. Below: Gemma Willin as Mrs Fox, Nick Skubij as Mr Fox and Johnny Balbuziente as Chase Fox.
Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox
Adapted by Nick Skubij
Directed by Ross Balbuziente
Shake&stir Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: April 11-20. Bookings: qpac.com.au or phone 136 246
This will be yet another smash hit for shake&stir. The 6.30 pm opening night show had children and adults alike screaming with laughter and cheering loudly at the end of the 55 minutes of breakneck action, witty dialogue and extremely colourful visuals.
The video work and the split-second timing by the actors created a picture book come to life thanks to the spectacular work of optical blok’s Craig Wilkinson. The man is a video genius. With Jason Glenwright’s lighting helping bring on the atmosphere, Guy WEebster's sound design and Josh McIntosh’s clever set that blended perfectly with the background video the show was a visual delight.
It was truly amazing to see live actors digging cartoon tunnels totally in sync with the cartoon action and a bunch of farmers working a mechanical shovel live and in the backing cartoon action.
And those actors – Nick Skubij as Mr Fox, Johnny Balbuziente as Chase Fox, Gemma Willing as Mrs Fox and pantomime lady Mallory, and the multi-role players Leon Cain, Tim Dashwood and Nelle Lee (who was completely unrecognisable as Farmer Bunce, Badger and Greta), were superb.
Leon Cain, wearing outsize clown gear, had perfect comic timing and when dragging up to play an equally vast Mabel he brought the house down. Tim Dashwood’s millionaire farmer Bean was a true moustachioed, oily haired aristocrat, but he slummed down nicely to play the cellar dwelling rat that preferred drinking cider to eating cheese.
Dahl’s tale has a trio of poultry farmers; Boggis, Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short and one lean) who are determined to stop the Fox family’s attacks on their chickens, ducks and geese.
The fox family is equally determined to maintain their standard of living. So, humans with guns and mechanical diggers did battle with the wily fox family. Mr Fox and his only child Chase, played extremely well by Johnny Balbuziente who mastered the art of playing a juvenile perfectly, used the foxy cleverness and managed to stay one tunnel ahead of the marauding humans.
The comedy was broad ranging with one-liners, some acrobatics and pratfalls, some dad Jokes, Three Stooges comedy violence, an hilarious broom fight and an amazing rock song sequence which was sung and danced by the “ladies”.
Andrea Arena’s comedy choreography was a joy to watch and achingly funny.
The show was lovingly crafted from Dahl’s book and no fan could fault characterisation. It was a winner in all departments of production. I’ve said before that after a seeing a show I wonder how they will top it the next time, and inevitably they do. Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox is no exception.
If you have children or grandchildren, take them along to see it, if you have neither, go anyway, it’s a bargain hour of entertainment and you’ll have heaps of fun.