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BWW REVIEW: David Walliams' Endearing Tale Of Inclusion, Acceptance and And An Aromatic Vagrant Comes To Life In MR STINK

Monday 27th February 2017, 6pm, Everest Theatre Seymour Centre, Chippendale

Maryam Master's adaptation of David Walliams' popular children's book MR STINK returns to the Sydney stage under Jonathan Biggins' direction. Presented for 6 - 12 year olds, this work also ensures the accompanying adults are adequately engaged for an enjoyable 60 minutes of live theatre.

Set Designer James Brown has simply dressed the stage with three backdrops that twist and turn to reveal the various locations covered in the story, from the park where Chloe Crumb (Romy Watson) befriends Mr Stink (John O'Hare), to the Crumb's home and garden shed and corner store, Raj's Bazaar. Daryl Wallis sound design which draws on a variety of instruments, including what sounds like a baroque harpsichord, works to infuse a mood to the work whilst also covering the set transitions. Lucy Scott keeps the costuming simple to instantly capture each character's personality from Mr Crumb's (Darren Sabadina) homely apron, Mrs Crumb's (Anna Cheney) power suit and sensible heels and Chloe's school uniform which is worn longer than school bully Melissa's (Amanda Laing). Scott expresses Mr Stink's well dressed, if decidedly dirty, ensemble with a clever method of conveying his odour.

The premise of the story is that young misfit Chloe escapes from the school bullies, a disinterested social climbing mother and overachieving sister Annabelle (Amanda Laing) by befriending the smelly hobo that has taken up residence at the park. Upon hearing her mother's aspirations for political power and her proposed policies, Chloe wants to help her new friend and his adorable but dirty Yorkshire terrier Duchess so she seeks advice from her friend Raj (Darren Sabadina), the Indian proprietor of the corner store. Chloe's plans to protect her friend leads Mr Stink to cross paths with Mrs Crumb and ultimately derail her dreams whilst opening her eyes to the strained relationship she has with her family.

Produced by CDP Kids, this production has a simplicity and a naturalness, apart from Mrs Crumb's coif, and refreshingly doesn't talk down to children. The work is presented with British Accents in keeping with the origin of the author Walliams. Whilst a change in accent could give the work universality, English references have been inserted, relying on the adults to catch the somewhat datEd English pop culture gags. The work kept is contemporary, referencing social media and technology to highlight how detached from society Mr Stink has become during his time sleeping under the stars.

The cast of five deliver a solid performance with generally consistent accents and capturing the right balance of comedy, drama and realism. Watson captures Chloe's youthful care and compassion along with her exasperation at a life where she is picked on by the school's "mean girls" and underappreciated by her mother. She ensures that the emotions and relationships are conveyed with enough emphasis without overplaying the role. O'Hare gives Mr Stink the gravitas that gives weight to the wisdom he imparts whilst also having a sadness underlying his optimism. Cheney presents Mrs Crumb as a caricature, blended between "Keeping Up Appearances" Hyacinth Bucket with the obnoxious attitudes of Pauline Hanson with a Bronwyn Bishop blonde wig which is probably due to Biggins' history as a creator of Sydney Theatre Company's political satire THE WHARF REVIEW. Undertaking multiple roles of Mr Crumb, Raj and the Prime Minister, Sabadina gives each character an individuality from Mr Crumb's spinelessness inability to stand up to his wife, Raj's comic sales techniques and the Prime Minister's ruthless political ambition that can't be weighed down by the spiteful Mrs Crumb. Laing also undertakes the roles of favoured daughter Annabelle with a hilarious activities routine, bitchy schoolgirl Michelle with a recognisable venom and television talkshow host looking for a story.

MR STINK is a great experience for primary school aged children whilst also being engaging enough for the adults that accompany them. Capturing a variety of messages from inclusion, compassion, acceptance and understanding that everyone has their own story, this is a heartwarming story that stands up for the underdog and encourages creativity.


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