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Review: Fantastic Mr Fox at the Roslyn Packer Theatre

Review by Kate Gaul

Adapted for the stage by shake & stir theatre co

The redoubtable Shake & Stir’s Nick Skubij adapts Roald Dahl’s children’s book “The Fantastic Mr Fox” for an impressive cast of six who double in a multiple of roles. The story centres on a charming fox who enters an escalating battle with the three gluttonous farmers from whom he has been stealing.

It’s a male-heavy rollercoaster of a production but the women in the cast shine. Nelle Lee is completely unrecognisable as pate-obsessed farmer Bunce and provides laughs a plenty with the numerous fart jokes. Her mole is a spunky warrior and so completely loveable as ally to the Fox family’s machinations! Phoebe Panaretos plays Mrs Fox with great style. In fact, the entire cast is choreographed with great precision by director Ross Balbuziente. Leon Cain as fat-suited chicken farmer Boggis has some terrific moments of physical comedy while Tim Dashwood as misguided farmer Bean is the authority figure we love to hate! Memorable doubles are Dashwood’s cider-guzzling Rat, and a trio with both women joined by Cain (still in fat-suit) as Mabel, with a punchy dance routine. Johnny Balbuziente as the son, Chase Fox, narrates the tale with a great connection to the audience young and old. Nick Skubji is working hard and admirably plays the title role of Mr Fox. He’s a cool dude! The sweat-soaked costumes belie the ease with which this talented cast bring this physical and fast-moving production to life.

A highlight of this production is the design. Designer Josh McIntosh creates a playing space using three interconnected ramps, a revolve, and a projection surface. Jon Weber’s cartoon illustrations and Craig Wilkinson’s video design literally leap out at the audience and the synchronisation between the projections, the content and the action onstage is stunning. All the animals of the story live underground, and the tunnel building sequences are thrilling, funny and inventive. Split second timing, illusion, foley sound effects (sound designer Guy Webster), still leave room for individual character traits. When we are a not open-mouthed in awe of the clever conception for the piece, we are in equal parts laughing at the antics. The anthropomorphic character costumes also deserve a gold star.

In a show that runs just on an hour it certainly captures Dahl’s interrogation of the ugliness of greed – on the part of all the characters – if not much else. The cartoon style gives this broad stroke morality tale a hard edge. This style is loud in every sense. It is visually in-your-face and quite a battering for the ears. Everything in this production is turned up to 11 and stays there. I yearned for a touch more nuance. There is a lot of entertainment out there for youngsters and their humans. Shake & Stir are offering a foxy tale at one end of the spectrum. A company that can fill the Ros Packer for the holidays is doing something right! Enjoy.

Image Supplied


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