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School holiday highlight: Paul Jennings’ The Gizmo onstage

Author Paul Jennings gets 5,000 fan letters per year – and most of his fans can’t even reach the postbox yet. Of all his books, The Gizmo (released in 1994) remains enduringly popular, and this school holidays it’s coming to the stage at Brisbane Powerhouse.

“We all remember what it's like to be a kid, and we still have a little kid inside us that wants to come out and play,” says Meg Spencer, who plays Mouse in the show.

“Jennings has recognised this, and it's why adults still find his work and adaptations of his work (for example, the TV adaptation of Round the Twist) so enjoyable. It's also the reason why I love performing this show.”

Writer Verity Laughton has translated Jennings’ bestseller The Gizmo to the stage, bringing the story’s antics to life in a high-energy production that invites children in the audience to participate in the show.

For the uninitiated, The Gizmo is the hilarious misadventure of Stephen, who steals a whirling, twirling, illuminating Gizmo at the fair (against his better judgment). Stephen can’t manage to get rid of the Gizmo, and his efforts lead him into all manner of extraordinary situations.

At every comedic turn – from wearing pantyhose and a wedding dress to being lumped with a smelly tramp’s coat – Stephen’s best friend Mouse is there to act as his moral compass.

Jennings himself has admitted that when he writes, he goes back to his own childhood and distills that time into his work. Spencer believes it’s this process that sees kids and adults alike respond to the show’s comedy.

“While I'm doing a mad costume change side stage, I always peek my head around the curtain to watch Stephen's meeting with Tall Man,” she says of her favourite moment in the show.

“He's a huge character in every way. When the Gizmo swaps Tall Man's huge shoes with Stephen’s little ones, it's so fun to watch – even though I've seen it so many times!”

The comedy takes a lot of energy to pull off, serving as a fun-filled introduction to live theatre for kids.

“The show definitely requires stamina,” Spencer says. “When performing, I aim to stay present in each scene, take it one moment at a time and bounce off the energy of the other actors – their energy feeds mine!”

Spencer stars alongside Huw Jennings and Louis Reed to bring all the outlandish antics to life, getting kids up and out of their chairs while they’re at it.

See the show during its limited run at Brisbane Powerhouse in the spring school holidays.

The Gizmo
4–7 October at Brisbane Powerhouse
More information




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