Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine (shake & stir theatre company)
QPAC, Cremorne Theatre
January 10 – 23
When it comes to shows for younger audiences, shake & stir seem to have the touch of Midas. The Queensland company, now in its tenth year, has the pedigree of previously acclaimed, sold-out productions such as last year’s national tour of “Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts” and their latest adaptation, “Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine” forms further evidence of their success, in delivery of a show that celebrates the mayhem of Dahl in the company’s own inimitable style.
The story is of titular George Kranky (Nick Skubij) and his annoying Grandma (Leon Cain). On a good day, George can’t stand his Grandma. She complains all the time, she’s mean and she smells funny. Wanting to teach her a lesson, he concocts a special medicine….that actually works … with remarkable results – just not in the way he thinks it will. It’s a story filled with the fantastical subject matter that has made the legendary Dahl one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time.
There is always a certain comfort to children’s stories and “Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine” emulates this from its outset in its cosy staging of the Kranky family farm and the very English, accented narration from George himself. And from the moment George introduces himself as a bored eight year old, audiences are engaged. Indeed, Skubij perfectly captures the boyish enthusiasm of the likeable hero, in absolute versatile contrast to his performance as the brooding, sinister title character of last year’s “Dracula”.
Leon Cain is very funny as the cantankerous grandma, appropriately milking every physical humour opportunity for a laugh from the little folk. And as George’s parents, Nelle Lee and Bryan Probets are appropriately panto-like. Larger-than-life as they might be, however, the performers act as perfect complement to each other. There is a furious energy as the consequences of George’s mischief unfold, with Johnny Balbuziente, in a memorable mainstage debut after years of touring with the company, running riot as a giant chicken, to hilarious effect. As antics unfold on stage, the kid-friendly laughs of bodily functions, surrealism and exaggeration are peppered with adult humour and modern references, proving the truth of the show’s tagline of being for ages 6 – 106.
Josh McIntosh’s design is an absolute joy, thanks to an inventive and visually impressive, yet functional set full of details to be hidden and revealed, and meticulous costumes to give the characters a colourful comic-book look. Guy Webster and Jason Glenwright are again epic in their sound and lighting achievements, transitioning the story from its fairytalesque opening to wizard-like magical potionery through a mass of lighting cues and a catchy soundtrack to move the action along.
In the hands of Director Ross Balbuziente, this dose of Dahl is pure and delicious escapism… innovative, engaging and full of family fun, regardless of familiarity with the original text. Its mischief, magic and many laughs are right to be embraced by both the young and the young at heart who can appreciate the irony of Grandma’s observation that growing (up) is a nasty habit. One dose of Dahl’s medicine will have to be enough however; the already-extended season has only limited ticket availability.