Saturday, August 12, 2023



Just Live on Stage by Andy Griffiths with illustrations by Terry Denton.

Adapted from the Just books by Robin Goldsworthy. Directed by Iain Sinclair. Set and costume designer. James Browne. Lighting designer Matt Cox. Sound designer and composer. Daryl Wallis. Nigel Poulton Choreography. Animation Simon Rippingale Red Line Productions. Lenore Robertson and Vanessa Wright. Arts on Tour.Q Kids. The Q. Queanbeyan Arts Centre. August 11-12.  

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins.

Andy Griffiths knows what kids like. At least in Just Live On Stage, adapted by Robin Goldsworhy and directed by Iain Sinclair, Griffiths certainly knows what boys like. That’s not surprising given the enormous success of Griffiths and illustrator Terry Denton’s Treehouse series and Just books. Goldsworthy’s lively adaptation certainly appealed to my three grandsons and I notice one young girl standing in the third row and clapping enthusiastically. She also was having a wonderful time and it wasn’t just the boys laughing at the explosive farts, the manic business, the projectile vomiting and the gross, disgusting leftovers in Danny’s school bag and Sooty’s puddle of wee. For fifty-five minutes of high octane comedy, the audience sits rapt from Andy’s bursting forth through the classroom bookcase to the dangerous balloon ride to end his short story for the school’s annual short story competition.

For anyone who doesn’t know the book, Andy ( Philip Lynch in a Mr. Bean meets the Hulk performance) has a problem. His teacher Mr. Rowe has banned him from taking part because in the past Andy’s stories have been too tricking, annoying, stupid, crazy, disgusting, shocking and doomed. Well, that’s what Mr Rowe thinks but not the audience at The Q. They lapped it all up and director Sinclair kept the action moving with a bouncing Brussel Sprout, a cute tail-wagging dog and a mud besmeared Andy and love of his life Lisa (a feisty Madeline Marie Dona). Even the less ADHD afflicted straight man Danny (Ben Huntley) gets in on the act with his Invisible Pill trickery and all three collaborate to create a story of adventure.

I do have a moment of concern that the poor Brussel sprout gets a bum rap. After all isn’t it the duty of every children’s author to spout the benefit of eating one’s greens? Still, like every good story, Just Live on Stage ends with a moral and Andy, a self-proclaimed genius and super short story writer learns that one can’t do without friends on one’s side.

Red Line’s slick and snappy production has just the right amount of absurdity and quirkiness to keep the kids and their grown-ups laughing and squirming with delight. Red Line has given Andy Griffith’s story a professional gloss that shines throughout this production. It’s fast, funny, boisterous and super energetic. The target audience for this stage adaptation may be young readers of Andy Griffiths’ stories but the appeal of Red Lines’ production is for anyone who is still a child at heart.