Holiday season is prime time kiddy theatre time. Under the playful directorial eye of Lynne Ellis, Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox was transformed into a panto for generation You Tube at RMIT’s Kaleide theatre. Two hundred little foxes and big foxes filled the auditorium for the final afternoon performance of this delightful adaptation by this visionary (and virtually unknown Director) who has been creating magical memorable kids theatre like this wondrous production for 18 years.
Fantastic Mr Fox follows the trials and tribulations of a sly simple fox who tries to feed his family despite the protestations of three greedy farmers who have too much poultry and far too much ego to share their good fortune with those less privileged. Boggett (Kristian Clancy), Bunce (Richard Higgins) and Bean (Tom Honkin) are the dastardly trio hell bent on destroying the humble foxes of the world and overeating their way to riches, ruin and early graves. Their acting is superb and the comic timing exacting.
Of course overeating, overachieving and over-earning have added repercussions for this selfish trinity – epic gastric disorders, horrific heartburn, grotesque boils and the foulest of flatulence. All of which for great comedic stuff, outrageous sound effects and copious amounts of oozy theatrical body fluids sprinkled and splattered onto unsuspecting audience members. Foxes, big and little, lapped it up.
Quixotic Mr Fox (Nesim Guzel) faces all sorts of adversity in David Wood’s witty updated adaptation of Dahl's shadowy tale. Including the loss of his luxuriously long and lush furry tail. Sensitive Runt (Nick Brennan) manages to save the day and whips up a makeshift tail on his Jenome while listening to the soundtrack of Priscilla Queen of The Desert. Its pink, fluff and glittering with sequins, and dear old Dad thinks his newly constructed tale is fantastic - it’s a great father and son moment!
The fabulous sotto voce Mrs. Fox (Meredith Lewis) adds a healthy and comforting nuance of graceful girl power to Wood’s cheeky revision. Much to the resounding joy of the big foxes in the audience who love her compassion, cerebral good sense, strategy and defiant attitude to staying housebound while there are people starving in the world. “We can have a dance party while we prepare the feast for all the starving little foxes”, says Mrs Fox, just before the close of the play and tumultuous applause.
After the curtain call Director Ellis made an impromptu speech, overcome with emotion and absolute elation. ”I wasn’t going to make a speech”, she cautioned, “but I've been doing this for nearly twenty years and with the demise of the VSU last year this is a sad time, this may well be the last children’s show at RMIT. Some people say - so what its just children’s theatre and this is what actors do before they make it or do the real stuff - well I think this is even more important and these wonderful talented actors feel the same. Thanks for coming along spread the word and hopefully there will be many plays like this again. We like to be more risqué in these shows. And thanks for letting us get away with it. Come and talk to us after the show.” And that’s exactly what all the eager little foxes did. It occurred to me that it should be compulsory for all adults to go to children’s theatre every holiday season whether they have kids or not.
Comparisons with Glen Elston’s ASC perennial family favourites like, Wind in the Willows were bound to happen after show. As I was wiping the stream of tears from sheer happiness from my eyes - some two blocks down Swanston - I found myself alongside a family of euphoric foxes. “Which play did you like the most, Willows or Mr Fox?”, asked a big fox of her beaming six-year-old little fox. ”I liked them both”, she hyperventilated with glee, ”but this was the best play ever, I loved being a fox and dancing on stage.”
Fantastic Mr Fox
Written by Roald Dahl, Adapted by David Wood
Venue: Kaleide RMIT Theatre | 360 Swanston St, Melbourne
Dates: January 4 – 19, 2007
Times: Two shows daily, Monday to Friday, 10.30am and 1.00pm
Bookings: Malthouse Box Office: 9685 5111 www.rmit.edu.au/rmitunion/arts