shake & stir’s production of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox has arrived, and is the perfect family show for the school holidays.
Presented by Sydney Theatre Company after a cancelled 2021 season, this lively production is on at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. At only 60 minutes, this shortened, kid-friendly adaption will best suit those aged 5-10, but that’s not to say that adults wont enjoy themselves—I certainly did.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Roald Dahl book (or the very successful 2009 Wes Anderson film), the story is this: Mr Fox (Nick Skubij), Mrs Fox (Phoebe Panaretos) and Chase Fox (Johnny Balbuziente) live in bliss, stealing every meal from their wealthy farmer neighbours, Boggis (Leon Cain), Bunce (Nellie Lee) and Bean (Tim Dashwood). But when the menacing farmers decide to take revenge and come after the Fox family, the Foxes have to decide to run, or to fight back?
Never have I seen a children’s storybook rendered on stage so effectively, while maintaining the colour and personality of the source material. I got a ticket based off the dynamic trailer alone, and I was not disappointed.
While the performers are great, the designers steal the show, and are the main reason this show stands out from other children’s theatre productions. Josh Mcintosh’s four-tiered set makes marvellous use of the Roslyn Packer’s height, and used in conjunction with Craig Wilkinson’s animated video design, creates a dynamic interactive experience for the performers, which reminded me of a Super Mario Bros game. As the characters move throughout the stage, the animated video design responds to their movements, often producing tangible results, like a secret door opening. McIntosh has created vibrant costumes which, coupled with the big, broad comic performances, bring lots of personality to the characters. The three caricatured farmers steal the show as the comic-relief.
The creative team consisting of adaptor (and star) Nick Skubij and director Ross Balbuziente have worked on shake & stir Roald Dahl stage adaptions before, and their passion for Dahl’s dark wit is clear. Skubij does a good job of condensing the essence of the story to a family-friendly runtime (this play is considerably shorter than the Wes Anderson film).
Parents should consider the age demographic of their kids before buying tickets. Although it’s definitely a show for children, the story is inherently a bit dark. The entire premise, after all, is that the farmers are trying to kill the foxes, so some younger children might find some parts upsetting (like the farmers shooting the foxes and the loud noises of the mechanical diggers).
Although families with primary-school age kids will definitely enjoy this, I’d recommend this to anyone who loves broad comedy and clever video design.