shake & stir's marvellous creation
"I'm going shopping in the village,' George's mother said to George on Saturday morning. 'So be a good boy and don't get up to mischief. This was a silly thing to say to a small boy at any time. It immediately made him wonder what sort of mischief he might get up to".
Throughout his years, Dahl had held a profound respect for doctors and especially those who pioneered new treatments and hence, dedicated his book to 'doctors everywhere'. Some may argue that this book is a precursor for our modern times, with numerous new advancements in scientific remedies being referred to as a magic, just like George's potion. Shake & stir theatre company have created a kid's paradise on stage, with just five actors and a spectacular creative team. The piece is a modern adaptation of Roald Dahl's book of the same name and follows the misadventures of eight-year-old George Kranky in attempting to make a medicine that transforms his Grandma into a nice person. In this potion, George adds everything he can get his hands including shoe polish, engine oil and toothpaste, boils it and gives it to his Grandma, who grows the size of the set.
In a recent interview, director Ross Balbuziente claimed that 'the book was one of [his] favourites growing up as a kid and his passion is reflected in the quality of the work on stage and in his direction of his actors. Nick Skubij played such a believable mischievous eight-year-old boy, that it's hard for me to believe that he could be capable of playing such a powerhouse villain like Dracula, who I've been delighted to have seen him play both times the production came to Brisbane. From the gestures, to the facial expressions, to his changes in tone...you could tell that Skubij had committed hours of research to the role, to bring such truth to his portrayal. Leon Cain's depiction of Grandma was perhaps not as dark as Dahl intended, but on old grouch nonetheless who to me, read as a satire on an adult's often unrealistic expectations from children. Nelle Lee and Tim Dashwood played George's parents and added much humour for both the children and especially the adults. They were both buzzing on stage with energy and it was a joy to watch them interact with each other. However, the star of the show, was Johnny Balbuziente as Nugget, whose physicality was seamless. Consequently, it was very sad to see George's mother (Nelle Lee) swallow him up whole when the marvellous medicine had transformed him into a chicken nugget.
Moreover, John McInTosh's set design is very clever and probably the most versatile set design I have ever seen. It's construed of a plethora of jumbled shelves representing George's farmhouse, crammed with an assortment of items associated with domestic life. Attached to the shelves was a series of moving panels, large enough for the actors in weave in and out of as they seamlessly transitioned from room to room, and quite often climbed on top of it as well. It was like an enormous jungle gym and all the kids (and adults) in the audience were yearning to play on it. Jason Glenwright's lighting design features a kaleidoscope of colours, with the walls of the set being decorated with an array of lights which flicker on and off throughout the performance, especially throughout the hilarious banter on stage. It further aids to create the magical atmosphere of Dahl's picturesque world on stage.
55 minutes in this Dahlian world is enough to fill up with enough colour and imagination to last a lifetime.
Rating: 5 stars
George's Marvellous Medicine
Directed by Ross Balbuziente
Performed by shake & stir theatre company
Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)
Running until 5th September 2018