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Roald Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings in place of the traditionally ever after. These re-imaginings have been subject to much controversy, with themes like gambling, cannibalism, guns and dynamite... Themes that team at shake & stir have not shied away from, in their electrifying stage adaptation of Dahl's Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts.

Directed by Ross Balbuziente, the production is clever, provocative and incredibly witty - all the things that theatre should be.

As an audience member, I love going to see children's theatre to be transported into a world of colour and play. From Goldilocks to eating the three bears to Little Red Riding Hood hiding a pistol in her knickers, each story was as brilliantly written and executed as the next.

Actors Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij, beam with energy as they seamlessly transition from one character to the next, embodying a roller coaster of emotions. The company truly encapture the Dahlian characters; from the grotesque to the beautiful, the shy to the bold, naive to the scheming and everything else in between.

Josh McIntosh's revolving set is what I would imagine a dream playground looks like; an enormous cubby house filled with lots of compartments and trap doors to explore filled with an endless amount of dress up costumes in different styles and colours. It's no wonder that during pre-show, I over-heard a few children asking their parents if they could play in it. The actors going in and out and jumping on and off the cubby, it felt like the actors were children playing together, rather than them being actors putting on a show for an audience; truly putting the element of play at the heart of the work.

One of my favourite moments in the play was the use of shadow imagery, with the chopping off of cardboard body part cut-outs creating a visually haunting image. Other images that still replay in my head are that of Cinderella and her beautiful ball gown that fell from the sky and the transformation of Lee from the toad into the snail.

For a bit over an hour on a Wednesday night, I felt like a child again, lost in my favourite storybook. It made me reflect on how important it is not only to create theatre for children but to reconnect with our sense of play. And I thank the company of Shake & stir for being able to do that in such a brilliant and skilful way.

Rating: 5 Stars

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