The first production for shake and stir’s 10th anniversary year-long party started with the family friendly, summer holiday show, George’s Marvellous Medicine.
Aces of the stage adaptation, Roald Dahl’s classic has been whiz-bang whirred into shape by shake & stir’s artistic directors, Nellie Lee, Nick Skubij, with Ross Balbuziente as the show’s director.
Eight-year-old George Kranky (Nick Skubij) points out that while his last name is Kranky by name and not by nature, his Grandma (Leon Cain) however, is an entirely different kettle of smelly fish. She’s nasty, annoying, and thinks that George is a disobedient ‘schnit’ for his refusal to stop growing!
When Grandma needs her usual dose of medicine one boring Saturday, George thinks the remedy obviously isn’t working and decides to concoct his own.
Skubij plays George with a loveable, mischievous charm. It strikes me just how versatile this actor is, after seeing him in the starkly contrasting role of Dracula last year in shake and stir’s cult production.
Nellie Lee and Bryan Probets as George’s parents is a hilarious paring. Nellie’s character and facial expressions are so wonderfully outrageous (matching her wardrobe), and is perfectly complemented Probet’s straight man role as the farmer with his eyes set firmly on being ‘rich and famous’.
Leon Cain plays a delightfully grouchy Grandma who burps and farts her way into the sentiments of an audience full of kids. Making his shake and stir main stage debut is Ross’ little bro Johnny Balbuziente as Nugget the chicken, whose energetic physicality matched the rest of the over-the-top characters.
Under the sturdy reins of Ross Balbuziente, whose directive to the creative team was to create ‘a live cartoon onstage’, the show is a spectacular audio-visual feast, thanks to Josh McIntosh (designer), Guy Webster (sound designer), and Jason Glenwright (lighting designer).
Set in the Kranky family’s English farm, with colourful costuming, constantly moving sets, over 256 lighting changes (and probably even more audio cues) within the 59-minute show, this is not just a simple kids show, but a technical triumph.
The program boasts the show being appropriate for ages 6 – 106, with pop culture references that only the adults would get (nutribullet anyone?), my theatre companion for the evening, kid’s critic, Miss Tiah (11), was thoroughly entertained throughout and remarked, “No matter how grown up you are, you will always love a shake and stir show.”
But the show comes with a warning, “Kids, do NOT try this at home!”
After a sold-out season with last year’s summer show Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts (also adapted from a Roald Dahl book), George’s Marvellous Medicine has been extended an extra week. In fact, 2016 is looking good for shake and stir with a four month national tour of Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights, a short return season of Tequila Mocking Bird, Samuel Becketts’s Endgame, and a big surprise production to end out the year.
George’s Marvellous Medicine is now on at the Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) till 23 January.