Saturday, July 6, 2019


Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl.

 Directed by Ross Balbuziente. Designer Josh Macintosh. Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright. Sound Designer Guy Webster. Featuring Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij. Shake and Stir Theatre Company. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. July 3-6 2019

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Leon Cain, Nick Skubij and Judy Hainsworth i
Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

Well, I really have to say that Shake and Stir Theatre Company blew me away.  They’re the perfect lot to take Roald Dahl from the page and put Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts upon the stage.  They’re clever, so witty and silly as well and will have you in stitches with the stories they tell. They stick to the script and follow the rhyme turning traditional tales upside down and around. 

Leon Cain, Nick Skubij and Judy Hainsworth in
Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

On a circular sphere that turns on a revolve with trapdoors and windows and props on the side they take their audience on a magical  ride throwing  fairy tale stereotypes aside far and wide.  Cinderella slays the prince to marry a jam maker, and that’s not the only stereotype shaker. Goldilocks (Nelle Lee) comes to sup and in the end gets gobbled up. As for Little Red Riding Hood  (Judy Hainsworth), she needs no male wood-chopper to lop off the wolf’s head. She knows how to aim straight and shoot him instead. Topsy-turvy versions of other familiar fairy stories are interspersed with Dirty Beasts tales equally gory, There’s the toad (Nick Skubij) that transforms into a  Roley Poley Bird and a snail and  porcupine quills in a little girls’ bum make her wail. But wait there’s even more in store, even more shocking with even more gore. There’s the pig that gets his revenge by eating the farmer (Leon Cain) from top to toe while the young and old audience laugh at Dahl’s horror show. No need for psycho-analysis here. This is not Grimm. There’s no need to fear. Dahl took nothing seriously, so I am told, and nor will the kids with these tales as they’re told.
Nelle Lee in Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

But it’s not all blood and gore and a touch of the macabre. There’s plenty of humour and abundant laughter. Wouldn’t we all like a mirror on the wall that could predict Mistletoe’s win for a hefty windfall? But there’s no denying that Shake and Stir stay true to Dahl’s story, acting out the narrated rhyme in all its glory. There’s no tampering with the verse, or what would be worse, a performance by actors not so well-rehearsed. The show is slick, and bouncy bright, with director Ross Balbuziente keeping it tight on Josh Macintosh’s brilliant design that’s not too gaudy, not too spekky but just right. With spectacular lighting by Jason Glenwright action and colour create a fabulous sight while Guy Webster’s sound design lends a lighter mood to Dahl’s darker moments of fright.
This is a show that shakes and stirs convention, breathing life into a child’s imagination, and like Dahl whose stories changed the rules in fairy stories, chocolate factories and schools Shake and Stir Theatre Company reminds us of the possibility that lies behind the wall of conformity. And when all is said and done, Shake and Stir remind us that entering into Roald Dahl’s world of Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts is just good fun.