Theatre review: Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox alright.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a kid’s production as impressive as Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse. 

The solid foundation of the production was based on top-notch character acting by the entire cast. So much so, sitting to the rear of the stalls, I didn’t realise several actors played multiple characters until the very end of the show. 

But the acting was taken to new heights by some of the best set work I’ve seen and some brilliant animation projection, incorporated seamlessly into the show. Three levels of staging, connected by ramps enabled some fantastic underground scenes. 

There were some liberties and simplifications taken with the original book’s storyline, but I was unfazed, as were the mini-humans, because we’re not religiously wedded to the original text. I’m not sure how those who consider themselves fanatics would fare. 

While there was a large smattering of jokes to keep the young’uns entertained (cue lots of farts and the like) there was also some extremely amusing scripting to keep the older audience members entertained, including nods to Marie Kondo and Harry Potter. 

During a dance scene that included generous portions of twerking, I laughed so hard that I spilled water all over my three-year-old, making me a very unpopular mum indeed.

In fact, the production almost made its way to a rare five-star rating from me, but I deducted half a star for some of the off-colour jokes and wording that really could have been brought into the 21st century, especially given the modern comedic references inserted for the amusement of the adults. Constant references to ‘fat’ and one description of a ‘nasty pot-bellied little dwarf’ did make me wince. 

Read: Dance review: SAVAGE

But if you can brave some of Roald Dahl at his politically incorrect worst, this is definitely a production we all enjoyed and would happily see again. Bravo! 

Fantastic Mr Fox
Playhouse at Arts Centre Melbourne

Presented by shake & stir theatre co
Director: Ross Balbuziente
Adaptor: Nick Skubij
Designer: Josh McIntosh
Sound Designer: Guy Webster
Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright
Video Designer: Craig Wilkinson
Illustrator: Jon Weber
Cast: Johnny Balbuziente, Ellen Bailey, Leon Cain, Tim Dashwood, Nick Skubij

Fantastic Mr Fox was performed from 20-24 September 2022.

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.