With the stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's tale 'George's Marvellous Medicine', shake & stir theatre co have concocted their own special elixir – a miracle cure for the crippled inner-child.
As the house lights dimmed in the Cremorne Theatre (Fri 24 Aug.) the weight and worries of the real world ebbed into the darkness and the audience were whisked immediately into a perfectly Dahlian world as if constructed by the author himself.
Enter George (Nick Skubij) the precocious main character, who introduces us to his loving-yet-hapless parents and his nasty Grandma. Stuck in the house with no friends and forced to take care of Granny all day, George mixes up a medicine that will cure her bellyaching once and for all.
What follows is 55-minutes of pure, unadulterated fun that shakes the inner child from its stupor as George searches every room in the house for ingredients to throw into the heady brew. The audience rightly 'oohed', 'ahhed' and 'ewwed' with every item George squeezed, plopped and poured into the pot.
The shake & stir creative team, led by director Ross Balbuziente (read our interview with Ross here), have carefully distilled all the wonder, whimsy and charm of the original text into a live-action production that truly captures the essence and playful innocence of the story.
The ensemble cast of five slipped effortlessly into their roles, each character exuding the scribbled warmth of Quentin Blake's drawings. Johnny Balbuziente's versatility as a theatrical all-rounder was on display as he deftly launched himself between multiple roles of narrator, various farm animals and other incidental characters.
The portrayal of Grandma was outstanding, easily eliciting the biggest laughs of the evening with some breakdancing that featured a pretty mean worm manoeuvre – not bad for a bloke in a nightie.
Technically speaking, the show surpassed my expectations and I was particularly impressed with how they overcame the logistical challenge of making Grandma inflate as she does in the book. Let's just say it was simple but hugely effective, and funny as hell to boot.
The intimate confines of the Cremorne Theatre provided the prime setting for a production such as this. By using an ingenious rolling set design, the rooms of George's house were quickly formed and broken down by the cast without disrupting the narrative flow.
Though enjoyed by all, there was the distinct impression the big kids in the audience got more out of the show than their children did, which isn't surprising considering they would have grown-up with the book.
George's Marvellous Medicine truly is for the young and the young-at-heart, a perfect tonic for the maladies of the modern age.