Category: Kids Theatre

Review: George’s Marvellous Medicine

Mischief and laughter abound in adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic

By Rebecca Waese 

Following a sold-out season at the Sydney Opera House, shake and stir theatre co has served up a winner at Arts Centre Melbourne with their fresh and fabulous theatrical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine. Gross, engrossing and deliciously wrong, this theatrical adaptation is directed by Ross Balbuziente who is not afraid of a good running fart gag or a Roald Dahl classic novel with the dubious message of eliminating an evil adult who makes life miserable for a child. This show is great fun for kids and great all round.

In a cast of standouts, Nick Skubij plays the mischievous eight-year-old George who creates medicine for his horrible Grandma that will hopefully make her easier to bear. With naughty glee and a complete disregard for health and safety, George concocts an elixir that makes Grandma grow to epic proportions. George’s parents, the excitable Mr. Kranky (Tim Dashwood) and Mrs. Kranky (Nelle Lee) – a designer-loving wife in a cow-hide skirt – add cartoonish flair to the stage and Johnny Balbuziente who plays Nugget the chicken uses physical comedy to the hilt with the latest in chicken talk and puppetry. Grandma (Leon Cain) is a terrific performer with sharp comedic timing and doesn’t shy away from engaging in contemporary references that take this Dahl tale right up to the minute.

Lighting designer Jason Glenwright and sound designer Guy Webster add to the winning recipe of magical wizardry with storms, bubbling brews, and humorous sound effects. The overall design of the set, with moveable sliding panels for rooms, crooked shelves and pop-up surprise doors, all decked out in a 1970s brown and yellow floral frenzy, adds to the imaginative flavour and had me exclaiming in wonder as George dared to mix a brew that sent Grandma and the chicken through the roof.

There were more than a few public service announcements warning kids, “Do not try this at home!” but, I must say, in these overly safe and parent-patrolled times, this theatrical adventure of “what if” was even more delicious for its shocking mischief and sheer delight in how far naughty George could go on a humdrum Saturday afternoon. The hour sped by in a blur and the show left the audience wide-eyed and cackling with incredulous laughter.

Though you may not want to see it with your Grandma, this show sends you back to what it feels like to be a curious kid with an aptitude for mischief. It’s terrific entertainment and bucket-loads of fun. Come early and make a crazy chicken or some farm creature crafts at the Kranky Farm before the show. Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine has got the right recipe for family theatre that leaves you wanting more.

Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine is being performed 25 – 29 September at Arts Centre Melbourne with an Auslan interpreted performance and relaxed performance. See here for more information and tickets.

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English.

Photograph: Dylan Evans

 

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StageArt Presents Garfield: A Musical With Catitude

Garfield roars, or rather sarcastically purrs, onto the Chapel stage to delight children and adults alike.

By Owen James

Garfield: A Musical With Catitude sees the titular feline leave his safe surroundings at home with owner Jon and go exploring for his “fantastic birthday” in alleys and daydreams. Accompanied by animal friends Odie, Arlene and Nermel, together they contemplate life as pets, and avoid animal control in the scary outside world. Garfield is StageArt’s first school holiday show produced for children and does not disappoint.

Director Luigi Lucente has milked the child-friendly book by Michael J. Bobbitt and Jim Davis for all it’s worth, creating a colourful palate of lively characters that make children squeal and adults smile. You can’t help but grin and giggle in this delightful world.

Musical Director Caleb Garfinkel has made the most of the zany music by John L. Cornelius II. With beautifully executed harmonies peppered throughout, this ensemble of five brought this simple but charming score to theatrical life.

Madison Lee’s choreography is highly energetic and rarely leaves characters a moment to breathe. Children will delight in enthusiastic and playful movement that keeps the imagination of young audience members active.

With his sour attitude leaping out of the comic strip and onto stage, Lachlan Graham’s Garfield has ten times the energy of any cat I’ve ever met. Graham’s expert grasp on physical comedy induced frequent laughter, and his genuine enthusiasm for the role and for theatre for youth shines in his performance.

Garfield’s friends Arlene (Grace Browne), Nermel (Laura Greenhalgh) and Odie (Callum Warrender) deliver highly polished performances with beautifully clear caricatures that engage even the youngest attendee. Never once dropping gusto or focus, these characters dance and sing their way through Garfield’s pessimism, reminding us to look for the silver lining in every situation. Warrender as Odie was a special fan favourite, with his lines including “woof” and “bark” inducing many squeals and smiles.

Garfield is a treat. Adults will love the scattered pop culture references, kids’ faces will light up at the animated onstage antics, and “I Hate Mondays” will stay in your head for the rest of the day. With a running time of only 60 minutes and ticket prices as low as a movie ticket and small popcorn, Garfield makes purrfect school holiday entertainment.

Garfield: A Musical With Catitude plays at Chapel Off Chapel until 13 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 8290 7000.

Melbourne Fringe 2017: TRASH TEST DUMMIES

Fresh and funny school holiday entertainment

By Rebecca Waese

They sure make a mess but the Trash Test Dummies clean up with extraordinary acrobatic, goofball, bellyaching fun. As my daughter and I entered the Emerald City this Fringe Festival, the trio had already begun with gentle slapstick antics to clean up the rubbish and get imaginations rolling. It was a terrifically entertaining blend of physical comedy, clowning, and interactive fun for the whole family.

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Dummies Thomas McDonald, Isaac Salter and Leigh Rhodes – fit and farcical with endearing circus personalities – have more adventures than you could imagine with wheelie bins that turn into giant trucks, jack-in-the-boxes, chariots of fire, and teetering towers of gravity-defying human versus bin-balancing stunts. Soundtracks add to the hilarity when the trio carries us into the worlds of Batman, The Lion King, an awkward ballet from Swan Lake and a terrific Great Escape scene.

The Dummies got down and dirty with the audience, crawling over our seats, pelting us with soft balls, tissues, fake flowers and lots of clowning chaos, inviting kids to throw everything back at them and be a part of the action. The flavor of the show suited adults too with some references that were clever and topical.

The hat and pin-juggling scenes were top-notch and the Dummies, while near-perfect, were even fun when they missed the occasional toss and did push-ups for punishment. The slow-motion collisions and frenzied ‘pass the bomb’ bit kept us riveted.

While you’d best not hire these guys for a regular rubbish gig, you’d be lucky to catch them at the Fringe for an hilarious hour of interactive circus silliness and physical comedy. Selling out overseas at the Edinburgh Festival and winning best children’s show at Adelaide Fringe in 2015 and 2016, the Trash Test Dummies will leave you smiling. Kids were so enthralled by the Dummies, they cleaned up the stage for them and jockeyed for high fives after the show. Highly recommended, Trash Test Dummies is a great choice for school holiday Fringe festival fun.

Venue: Emerald City – The Gingerbread House

Dates: Sept 25-30, 2 pm

Tickets: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/trash-test-dummies/

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English

CoisCéim Dance Theatre Presents THE WOLF AND PETER

Winning fans of all ages

By Zachariah (Age 9)

“The story was about a boy named Peter who wanted to discover the meadow and on his time when he was exploring he came across a wolf and he ran away and the wolf was really good at break-dancing.

My favourite character was the person who played the piano because his hair was really crazy and cool. The dancing made me feel energetic.

I liked it because it was really funny and… I can’t explain it, but I just love it. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

The Wolf and Peter 1.jpg

By Tania Herbert (Aged more than 9)

Brought to Melbourne by Ireland’s CoicCéim Dane Theatre, The Wolf and Peter by David Bolger is a contemporary re-imagining of the classic Prokofiev children’s symphony, Peter and the Wolf. Set in a stylised forest, it’s a surrealist journey into Peter’s little world with lots of modern twists to tell the story in a meaningful way for today’s modern tech kids.

As Peter (played by a woman – Ivonne Kalter – in classic pantomime style) journeys into the forest, he comes face to face with his own fears and fantasies, played out through contemporary dance, from jazz to breakdance.

The music is lead by an onstage piano – which itself plays a central character, with jokes from both pianist (composer Conor Linehan) and piano bringing a lovely integration between the dancers and the music. The stylised animal characters (Lance Coburn, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane, Mateusz Szckerek and Matthew Williamson) make sure kids were able to give their imaginations a great workout, and the shift from animals being represented by musical instruments to the animals being defined by their dance style was a clever catch.

While the show is touted as being for 6+, the audience had kids from toddlers to tweens, and the simplicity of the physical comedy yet the complexity of the dancing meant there was something to please all ages – adults included.

Kids in the audience were spellbound, even through the later parts of the show which was largely emotive contemporary dancing as Peter wrestled with the consequences of his actions and his feelings of conflict about the well-being of the wolf (Szckerek).

The Wolf and Peter is a great piece of kids’ entertainment, but also held a lovely and humanising message that we all value the same things – fun, family and freedom.

By Livi (Age 5)

“I went to the theatre and I saw The Wolf and Peter.

My favourite was Peter because he was hiding from the wolf. They did handstands and cartwheels (which I can do) and I loved the head stands.”

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CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s The Wolf and Peter was performed on 1 & 2 July at Arts Centre Melbourne.

http://coisceim.com/

Melbourne Fringe 2016: THE FAIRYTALE COOKBOOK

Serving up delicious and dynamic kids’ theatre

By Rebecca Waese

The Fairytale Cookbook, devised by Jason Geary and delivered by a rotating cast of seriously funny performers from Impro Melbourne, serves up a winning recipe for school holiday fun this Fringe Festival.

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Under the skillful guidance of the Chef character, played by Timothy Redmond on the day I attended, the kids in the audience were encouraged to pick the ingredients to make original fairytales that sent the actors into the realm of the ridiculous and super silly. I had thought the show would ask the kids to make up new endings for the likes of Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, but it was far more creative than that. Kids could pick characters from a wide-ranging list including a two-headed person, a ninja, a mermaid or a dancing bear and see the characters take on challenges in magical situations. In the performance I saw with my six-year-old daughter, the fairytales included a spider who could only move forwards through the world and a genie who lived in a tooth and got captured by a giant beard. The kids were delighted to see their ideas come to life and the players, combined from the Company and the Rookie ensembles, really listened to the kids, allowing them to clap for the person who would play the lead role in each story, decide how the stories would end, and do all the important character-building and plot development, even when, in our show, it called for potatoes to shoot out of a toilet named Flushhead.

The age guide of 3 and up does not mean the show is too young for older kids. While the players were gentle and patient with the littlest spectators, there was enough wit and bite to have the entire audience, adults included, truly enjoying the show. There were no props or sets or costumes needed. The cast used only the list of storytelling ingredients and said yes to all the suggestions from the kids and the collective creative energy in the room was palpable. After the show, my kids were inspired to make up new combinations of fairy tales at home from the list for hours. My daughter told me, “The show didn’t feel like an hour! It felt like a few minutes because I was having so much fun.”

High-quality, super funny, deeply creative and empowering, The Fairytale Cookbook was a terrific intro to impro for kids. Do yourself a favour and take yourself and your kids to this show.

 Venue: Fringe Hub: Arts House – Meeting Room. $15

521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne.

Dates: Thurs Sept 29-Sat October 1, 10 am- 11 am.

Bookings: https://melbournefringe.com.au/program?event/fairytale-cookbook/5c51cecb-6313-476c-8b70-b17bb38fa036

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

Melbourne Fringe 2016: BIG TOPS AND TINY TOTS

Dynamic and endearing school holiday entertainment

By Kim Edwards

Luth Wolfe can do magic. And I don’t just mean her nice slight-of-hand and neat balancing tricks – I mean, this woman can keep several dozen highly excited preschoolers and preps under her spell for nearly an hour. From the moment her energised and eager audience entered the drafty Emerald City performance space at the North Melbourne Meat Market performance venue, Wolfe made herself the centre of their attention with easy charm and cute banter. Only one small critic initially preferred to sit with mum in the seating behind while his peers made themselves at home on the stage, and even he changed his mind before long and also came to sit open-mouthed and engrossed at Wolfe’s feet.

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Big Tops and Tiny Tots is a slick, witty and well-constructed circus show aimed at kids aged 3 -6 that has been touring preschools and kindergartens before settling in for a 2016 Melbourne Fringe season. Wolfe talks to and with her young audience skillfully, making eye contact, getting down to their level, and keeping their attention constantly focused as she invites responses, reactions and interactions. Her chatting and clowning put the kids quickly at their ease: they were on side and laughing just with her initial play at trying to put on her hat. The performance delivers a well-balanced (pun intended) showcase of circus skills, including juggling, magic, comedy, unicycling, hula-hooping, mime and plate-spinning, and each act is nicely set up in showing the kids how to appreciate the trick, and escalating the skills demonstrated.

I also admired the subtle didactic elements Wolfe works in, explaining abilities, playing the fool to allow the kids to correct her, introducing boundaries and safety rules, and – particularly in a screen-time world – teaching the next generation of live-theatre patrons how to be an audience, all in fun and funny ways.

There is lots to love about this show: Wolfe is a talented performer and comedian, and her experience and enthusiasm are palpable. My one significant criticism – and I’m ambivalent about it – would be the flat-rate price. As a theatre-maker, I believe passionately in supporting artists and that kids’ performers often have to work even harder to engage their audience, but as a mum, I know no concession or discount makes it difficult for bigger families to enjoy such outings.

That said, Big Tops and Tiny Tots is a great little live show for the mere price of a movie ticket, your kids will love it, and they might even have the chance for a starring role as well.

Most importantly though, this was the critique of my esteemed reviewing colleague:

My favourite thing was the hula hoops. She also did funny things with her hat, and on a big wheel. She made me laugh! (Miss Four)

See?

Magic, I tell you.

 

VENUE: Emerald City – Meat Market

5 Blackwood St, Melbourne

DATES: September 17 – 18th  & 20 – 25th

TIME: 1.30pm

TICKETS: Visit melbournefringe.com.au

All tickets: $14.99

Image by Jayrow Photography

N. B. Bear in mind the venue is chilly, the coffee van isn’t open until after the show, and there was some fire-exit access concerns expressed about taking in prams, so arm yourselves with warm clothes, drink bottles, and other carry options for younger siblings.

 

MICF 2016: SUNNY RAY AND THE MAGNIFICENT MOON

Family festival fun with the sun

By Joana Simmons

Our favourite friends who warm our days and add wonder to our nights bring songs, stars and sparkle to the Spiegeltent and the 2016 Melbourne Comedy Festival for ages four and up. Fresh from a critically acclaimed world premiere at Sydney Festival, Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon, invented by Clare Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias (creators of Comedy Festival favourite, Die Roten Punkte) is a polished, humorous take on what happens when the sun stays up all night to party with the moon.

Sunny Ray

Every day Sunny Ray (Clare Bartholomew) wakes up before everyone else (even the birds!) She brings life to the plants and the sky with her cherry songs and sparkly demeanour before sending them to sleep and handing the sky over to the Magnificent Moon (Daniel Tobias). In an Elvis-meets-Abba white jumpsuit and silver cape, he hangs out with the stars and parties through the night: playing his electric guitar, crooning about his face and his phases, and I can’t help but take a shine to him. Sunny Ray wants to stay up late like and party with the Magnificent Moon so hides behind a cloud and they do all sorts of fun and naughty things all night!

This show has colour and heart. It promotes the ideas that ‘you are the best at being you’ and ‘sunshine never goes out of style’ and teaches us all sorts of things, like where daylight savings comes from. The puns and funny bits for the big kids sprinkled throughout are clever to the point where I wanted more, and the original songs of various genres- folk, funk, disco and pop give the show pace and a chance for the audience to get involved.

Bartholomew’s portrayal of Sunny Ray is bright and likeable and whilst her delivery of her songs was animated, the vocal quality was rather lacking and pitchy in contrast to the more accomplished Tobias. That being said, the harmonies and movement in the duo numbers are bang on. A highlight for me is the physical comedy and clowning between the two- you can tell they are seasoned artists, and the audience is onboard the whole way.

A magical starry curtain and well-designed props provide the perfect backdrop for this Arena Theatre Company gem directed by Christian Leavesley, with dramaturgy from Casey Bennetto (Keating! The Musical).  If there’s only one show you take your kids big and small to this festival, make it this one- it’ll brighten your day.

Venue:        The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne

Dates:          Tuesday 5 until Sunday 10 April

Time:          11am

Tickets:       $25

Bookings:   www.comedyfestival.com.au